Film Fest Friday: The Duchess

I’ll admit I’m one of those girls with a penchant for all things Merchant-Ivory-, Jane Austen-, or UK-related. I love a good period drama. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was raised watching BBC productions with my parents on PBS constantly and from a young age. Literally the first thing I can remember ever watching on TV, besides Sesame Street, was the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. In the evenings, we watched things like Upstairs Downstairs and Miss Marple. My Nana has always been pretty fascinated with royals and Kennedys (same thing, different country). Perhaps as a result of all this Anglophilia, there are some English expressions that cemented themselves into my speech pattern. For example, I can’t say “His name is…” It sounds wrong. I say “He’s called…” Friends have commented on the particularly flattened ending to some of my sentences, where theirs would be upturned. I say “a bit” all the time. Now, combine all this with the fact that I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and you’ll begin to understand just how weird I can sound sometimes.


When it comes to film, many of my favorite actors are Brits. But I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Keira Knightley for some time now. I love her name, and she is gorgeous. Well, at least her face is. The rest of her is rather…skeletal. I’ve enjoyed all her films but also felt that she didn’t have a lot of depth as an actor. She seems to always play a version of the same character. I feel the exact same way about Brad Pitt, which is why I don’t particularly care for him, as I have mentioned here before. But this week, Keira has impressed me with her mature, restrained performance in The Duchess as Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. What truly made this movie great, aside from the amazing costumes, is the fact that truth can be stranger than fiction. I was fascinated by the fact that Princess Diana was descended from the Duchess of Devonshire, and their lives shared so many parallels. On a more shallow note, I will also say that I have respect for Keira for protesting (and preventing) the airbrushing of her promotional photos for this movie. (They were trying to make her breasts look bigger.) Also, she does sort of resemble portraits of the actual Georgiana Spencer facially…though not so much elsewhere.


I’ve basically never seen a movie with Ralph Fiennes that I didn’t like, and he doesn’t fail to impress here either. I was going to say “delight” but his character in this movie is so abhorrent that it would have been too positive a word. I think the man should win the Oscar for Best Actor pretty much every year. Also, during the opening credits, I was interested to see Pathe as one of the distributors — a French movie company which was also responsible for Marie Antoinette, starring the loathsome train wreck that is Kirsten Dunst. With The Duchess, they’ve won back my favor at least. I’ve already watched this movie twice, and it will probably be one for the personal collection. I was truly transported for a couple of hours. And that is definitely worth fifteen bucks to experience again whenever I want.


1 Comment

  1. grantmasterflash said,

    February 20, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    I’ll definitely see this. Ralph Fiennes is one of my favorite actors.

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