"The Duchess" from 2008 is the sumptuously-told story of Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire, a direct descendant of Princess Diana. Georgiana (Knightley) becomes the wife of the Duke (Ralph Fiennes) in 1774. It's an arranged marriage, and the Duke is adamant about the fact that he wants a male heir. Beautiful and vivacious, Georgiana is beloved by society though unhappy in her marriage. The sex makes her uncomfortable, mainly because her husband isn't big on communication. Her mother (Charlotte Rampling) assures her that once the heir is born, the sex will be less. Georgiana, however, keeps giving birth to girls, and the Duke and Duchess even take in Charlotte, the Duke's illegitimate daughter, after her mother dies. Georgiana loves her as if she is her own daughter. When Lady Bess (Hayley Atwell) enters the scene, Georgiana is thrilled to have a friend and confidante, until her husband sleeps with Bess and the three are forced to live together. Georgiana then falls madly in love with Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) and learns that what's good for the goose isn't so good for the gander, especially when the goose has all the power. Beautiful looking film, with good acting from a top cast, but it moves slowly. One never tires, however, of looking at Knightley in a series of gowns and wigs, ravishing in every scene. The film shows the sad state of women in those times - arranged marriages, blamed if they can't have a boy, forced to tolerate their husbands' affairs, and without power. Georgiana was a woman who was outspoken politically and drew a lot of attention. It is easy to see why she would find her marriage so constraining. While it may have been, she makes the best of it and makes peace with her circumstances. She emerges in the film, thanks to Knightley, as a strong, adaptable, and forgiving woman. It's a lovely story, but it could have moved along a bit faster. If you like costume dramas, you will adore this.
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A chronicle of the life of 18th-century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life.
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April 11, 2019