I saw this movie with Findabair on Saturday; it was a free preview screening at Klingenberg. The movie opens in this country on February 13th; ie, this Friday. IMDb listing here.
One thing I really don't get is how Keira Knightley has established herself as so eminently suitable for period films set in the 18th century. The Pirates movies (don't think anyone's really sure exactly when those are set, but still >:-), Pride & Prejudice, and now this ... and other periods too, both earlier (King Arthur) and later (Doctor Zhivago). It's a symptom of Hollywood's deep-seated inability to see anything but our own time and its standards as truly valid. Keira Knightley looks like she has TB ... and sure, in our time, that's considered beautiful. But in pretty much every other time period she would just have looked like she had TB. So, say, Elizabeth Bennet being a celebrated beauty is impossible to believe when she is played by Knightley. I don't get it. And the main problem with The Duchess is exactly the same. She is a good actress, as far as that goes, but she looks so wrong for this part. (IMO, her talent curve peaked with Bend It Like Beckham. Kind of sad actually.) Hayley Atwell, who plays the title character's main rival, is by 18th-century standards clearly by far the most beautiful. Yet we're supposed to buy Knightley as being considered her superior. Be prepared to work at that a bit. ;-)
But apart from that this is a really good movie for its genre. Some great performances, I'd say by Ralph Fiennes especially as the title character's husband, William Cavendish, the fifth Duke of Devonshire. He is quite an obnoxious character, I loved the way Fiennes played him. The movie relates the life of Cavendish's wife Lady Georgiana Spencer from shortly before her marriage and for a decade or so afterwards. She was a celebrated aristocrat and set the tone in society in many ways; she was a fashion queen and she was also quite active politically. She was also the target of a lot of criticism, but the movie doesn't touch much on that. It's a straightforward retelling, not a lot of frills ... just this woman's apparently quite eventful and quite sad life. The story made both Findabair and me rather happy that society has moved forward a bit since the Duchess lived. There's a bit of insight into the political scene of the time, but mostly it's about her private life ... her failure to produce the son her husband requires of her, her sadness at his infidelities and her inappropriate romance with the up-and-coming Whig star Charles Fox. Which of course ends badly, but what do you expect.
This movie is based on a book by Amanda Foreman, a historical biography that became a bestseller. Which in itself makes it interesting ... and after seeing the movie, I definitely want to read the book. And/or others about Duchess Georgiana; the movie quite piqued my interest. Seeing it really made me want to know more about this historical person ... and that means, I'd say, that the movie definitely accomplished something. :-)
If you like period movies and historical biopics, then I definitely recommend this movie. (Otherwise not, no.) The costumes are fantastic, the makeup, the hair ... all the details like that. Absolutely fantastic. The period has been recreated beautifully; the interiors are especially wonderful. There aren't that many exterior scenes, actually. But it's all very beautiful. The story is ... gripping on the surface, perhaps not something you'll remember for very long, but rather moving then & there. A good movie although not a great one. Costume freaks should definitely see it (yes, Anéa, I'm looking at you ;-). Certainly, at the price we paid, it was unmissable. ;-)
2 weeks ago