Based On The Incredible True Story
Actors: Keira Knightley as Georgiana Spenser Cavendish, The Duchess of Devonshire, Ralph Fiennes as William Cavendish, The Duke of Devonshire, Charlotte Rampling as Lady Spencer, Dominic Cooper as Charles Grey, Hayley Atwell as Bess Foster
Directors: Saul Dibb
Studio: Paramount DVD
Release Date: December 27, 2008
Run Time: 109 minutes
List Price: $29.98
Editorial Review from Amazon.com: Swaddled in whalebone and wigs, Keira Knightley steps into the restricted world of the Duchess of Devonshire, a royal lady popular with her subjects but stuck in an unhappy marriage. If this situation recalls Princess Diana (a descendant of the Duchess's family), so much the better for the purposes of director Saul Dibb and company; this film is eager to draw parallels with the unfortunate Lady Di, even if she is never directly mentioned. Knightley's unsuspecting girl is married off to the Duke (Ralph Fiennes), a distracted jerk who craves male sons, and obviously has never thought of women as anything other than a means to achieve an heir. When the Duchess launches her procreative career with a couple of daughters, well, the Duke begins to get nervous--and partners outside the marriage become increasingly appealing. The Duchess serves up lavish portions of Brit-movie staples: costumes (which, in Knightley's case, are nothing short of spectacular), landscapes, and gorgeous music (by Rachel Portman). Charlotte Rampling appears too briefly as Knightley's mother, and Dominic Cooper and Hayley Atwell (from Brideshead Revisited), rising stars both, contribute attractive lures for the principals.
Hayley Atwell had a line (which I will paraphrase) in The Duchess that seems to sum up the life of Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire: "The Duke is the only man in all of England NOT in love with his wife." Sound familiar? Seemed to me to be quite similar to the much beloved, late Princess Diana and her husband Prince Charles. In fact, the entire movie seemed to be a re-play of their modern life - ironic then that Georgiana Spenser Cavendish was an actual ancestor to Princess Diana (Lady Diana Spencer). The movie even opens at the Althorp Estate, Diana's ancestral home. Glimpses of her burial site are evident in another scene as well.
The story begins with Georgiana given to the Duke of Devonshire in an arranged marriage - an arrangement she seems to welcome even given that she appears to already be in love with another man (Charles Grey). However, the Duke is only interested in her ability to provide him an heir, leaving her with plenty of time on her hands (even after giving birth to two daughters, much to the Duke's dismay). She involves herself in politics, fashion and gambling, becoming a "darling of English society." Eventually, the restrictions placed on women in her time will cause her to lose all she holds dear as she has to make the worst choice a mother could, at least in my opinion.
Is this movie worth your time and money? Absolutely! Keira Knightley shines as the Duchess, making her tribulations and triumphs all too real even though they occurred centuries ago. It is emotionally wrenching however; at one point, I was crying my eyes out for Georgiana as she went through a terrible ordeal late in the movie. Even though the late 18th century England is nothing like 21st century America, I could relate to her all too well as a mother. Sacrificing yourself for your children is a timeless theme we mothers can understand. I spent a long time after the movie reflecting on it. I highly recommend buying this DVD for yourself; just bring your tissues with you when you watch it! 5 out of 5 binkies.