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A Reel Life film section

Summer 2008-9

The Duchess (2008) movie review

Life for Sale

A noble lady has her duties. Georgiana became Duchess of Devonshire in the eighteenth century with a guarantee from her mama to the prospective groom that no woman in her line had failed in her duty to produce a (male) heir.

In an age where all breeding problems, and inconvenient genders were blamed on the mother, Georgiana's continuing 'failure' to produce a son added to her unhappiness. Her husband treated her with the disdain due a battery hen, forcing her compliance while expecting her to raise children by other women and allow him to openly install his mistress in her home.

Georgiana was a political hostess who took her support to the street, using her public popularity to aid the party.

Movie poster, The Duchess; Festivale film review

Movie poster, The Duchess; Festivale film review

There were three people in her marriage

In real life, Georgiana was an example of the high cost of the high life for women. Her happiness and unhappiness were linked to the future of British politics.

The Duchess works as a beautifully-filmed costume drama. Ralph Fiennes is cold, his villainy derived from the extremes of self-interest granted to him by his birth. Charlotte Rampling, as Georgiana's mother is almost sympathetic, but a force for continuing the status quo even at the price of her daughter's well-being. At the centre of the story, Keira Knightley plays the Duchess with fine balance.

The costumes and the historical context are important to the motivation of the characters, but this film works as the story of a life constrained by social pressures.

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by Ali Kayn
Due for Australian release 2 October 2008
For credits and official site details, see below
Search Festivale for more work by the film-makers below.

See also: Affair of the Necklace, Dangerous Liaisons
Keira Knightley also appears in Love Actually, Bend it Like Beckham, Pride and Prejudice,

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Just the facts:

Title: The Duchess (2008)
Written by: Jeffrey Hatcher & Anders Thomas Jensen & Saul Dibb; Amanda Foreman (book "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire")
Directed by: Saul Dibb
running time: 110 mins
Rating: M

The Players: Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling,

Official website:
IMDb entry

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