Rosamicula (rosamicula) wrote,

The People's Duchess

I watched a film yesterday, which is a rare occurence for me, these days. Actually, I wish I had just watched it. The Duchess is a gorgeous film to look at. There are sumptuous sets, lavishly constructed street and interiors scenes, gorgeous costumes and splendid hairpieces.

With the sound off, it would brilliant, and one would be spared Keira Knightley doing her usual costume drama schtick of saying every line as though she has a mouthful of marbles and her elocution teacher is making her repeat a series of simple but apparently meaningless phrases without letting any of them roll out of her gob.

The script, the work of three authors, is quite shockingly mediocre and seldom redeemed by the acting. Grey, the love interest, has about as much thrilling sexual chemistry with Knightley as a supermarket cashier has with till, and is played by Dominic Cooper as if he'd auditioned for The Inbetweeners and somehow found himself in a silly wig and tights on the wrong set. He seemed to be permanently veering between a fit of the giggles and a burst of terrified incontinence.

It's always worth watching Ralph Fiennes, here playing a two-dimensional Duke-with-Aspergers but imbuing him with more humanity and vulnerability than Knightley hamming up the scenes where she has to surrender her lover and her daughter (even the bit where she lezzes up with an underused Hayley Atwell is frankly boring). Charlotte Rampling is great, too, and lights up the screen, even though she is frumped right up as Knightley's mother.

I loved the book this film is very loosely based on; it's a proper historical biography, and gives a compelling sense of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, as a woman absolutely of her time, with the charisma and wit to push at the boundaries of what was possible for a woman to achieve/ get away with in public and private life, and for whom politics and gambling were dangerous passions. This film reduces her to a witless ingenue who seems to have been parachuted in from the 21st century, railing against the supposedly shocking double standards of the day as if they were news to her. There is, of course, an historical postcedent for a personable blonde of limited intellect finding herself unable to cope with the obligations and limitations of a dynastic marriage of convenience. A fascinating, unconventional historical life is reduced here to a dreary love story and search for clicheed personal fulfilment straight out of bad chick lit. If the filmamkers wanted to make a rollicking regency romance, they'd have been better off filming a Georgette Heyer novel and lifting the script straight off the pages.
Tags: film reviews, wastedhours
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