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THE DUCHESS, 2008
Movie Reviews!

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THE DUCHESS
Movie Review
Directed by Saul Dibb
Starring Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes
Review by Eli Manning



SYNOPSIS:

A chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life.

REVIEW:

This is a film that is highly interesting, plus highly entertaining most of the time. So you're really enjoying yourself when you're watching it, but when the film is over you feel like you missed out on something.

The Duchess is one of those films that leaves you about an hour after you've seen it. It's just not memorable, but at the same time an interesting watch. But this is a film that's not made purely for entertainment. This is a movie that's striving for something bigger than Hollywood box office numbers. So you have to look at it from a different light.

Usually after I watch a film I write my review almost right away because it's fresh and most of my present feelings about the movie are what I should be writing about. But The Duchess is a rare exception for me. I sat on writing this review because it took me a long time to really figure out what I felt about it. And why was I so indifferent about it?

In many ways this is a tale ala Princess Diana. But because the Diana murder/accident is too fresh in our memory banks and its story perhaps is not ready to be made into a film just yet, a production company decided to a tell a story that's a parallel character to Diana in Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire. A 18th century 'female maverick', who married into royalty and became difficult or too polarizing at times for speaking her mind a tad too much!

Keira Knightley does a stand up job playing The Duchess and hits the emotional beats the script has her do. But what really bothers me about The Duchess is that it really doesn't go all that far. Knowing nothing about this historical figure when watching the film, I researched more about Georgina to see what made her really tic afterwards. My instincts were right: the filmmakers just didn't take her into emotional places and/or conflicting situations that they needed to make this an exceptional film.

Georgina in real life (like all of us), was a smart but flawed person. She was progressive in woman's rights but she was also a compulsive gambler who died broke and in lot of debt, despite inheriting millions from her family. But in the film, she's treated like a saint most of the time who must battle all of the close-minded men of the world who obviously control things. The entire gambling angle is not even touched. And that character trait seemed from my point of view just too interesting to not touch if you're making a film on them. Why not give her some flaws in the film that she obviously had? Were they worried that the audience wouldn't like her?

The Duchess is a film that the filmmakers got scared and played it much too safe. Where it seems that most male lead characters in TV and film are mostly anti-heroes than heroes these days, the same trend is not for females. It seems that female characters in film are either saints or bitches as Hollywood still seems to suffer from the Madonna/Whore complex.

But The Duchess isn't a bad film at all. That's why I got too emotional about this movie. It could of been a great film if they really wanted it to be.

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Ralph Fiennes character, Duke of Devonshire, who plays The Duchess' husband is truly a fascinating man. He's bestowed this position of leadership and power, but he can't even communicate with a human being in any capacity. The only true relationship he seems to have in with his dogs! You may be born into royalty but it definitely doesn't automatically make you royal.

Director Saul Dibb also does a solid job of filmmaking with what he has. He immediately takes us into this 18th century world and we never leave it.

3 stars out of 4!


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