Last week, myself & herself went to see The Duchess, a “chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life”. It stars Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes and is sumptuously set & shot with magnificent backdrops throughout the film. The performances are somewhat varied from Dominic Cooper’s hopeless performance as the lovelorn Charles Grey to Knightly’s respectable performance as the Duchess to Fiennes nuanced turn as the Duke. It is however the script where the film’s key problems lie.
Fiennes does an excellent job with a character that could easily have been a cartoonish villian. Knightly does well but the simple fact is that her character is not all that likeable or sympathetic. While it is unfortunate to have to put up with her husband’s mistress living under the same roof and being a victim of the male-dominated times, she is still an extravagantly privileged aristocrat who proceeds to virtually destroy Grey, a man who initially shows some sense by not wanting to get involved and is later reduced to a quibbling wreck by Georgiana’s abrupt (but somewhat understandable) u-turn.
It’s also rather implausible that Georgiana with her sole experience of sex being the unloving gropings and gruntings of her husband, suddenly turns into Jenna Jameson “with the right guy”. The sex scenes are up there with 300 for sheer comedy value. I couldn’t wait to get out of the cinema towards the end.
This film would have been far more entertaining if any of the key characters had started up a chainsaw and lopped the heads off the others. There’s a place in the world for worthy period dramas but not ones as boring & tedious as this.