Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?
Georgiana Spencer became Duchess of Devonshire on her marriage to the Duke in 1774, at the height of the Georgian period, a period of fashion, decadence, and political change. Spirited and adored by the public at large she quickly found her marriage to be a disappointment, defined by her duty to produce a male heir and the Duke's philandering and callous indifference to her. She befriends Lady Bess but finds she is once again betrayed by her husband who wields his power with the three eventually living uncomfortably together. Against this background, and with the pressures of an unfaithful husband, strict social pressures and constant public scrutiny, Georgiana falls passionately in love with Charles Grey, a rising young Whig politician. However, despite his ongoing liaison with Lady Bess, the Duke refuses to allow her to continue the affair and threatens to take her children from her.Written by
The real Duke and Duchess of Devonshire were 25 and 17 when they married, and were 8 years apart in age. The actors Ralph Fiennes and Keira Knightley are 23 years apart. See more »
The scene in which Georgiana goes into labor to deliver her first baby, begins at night on a snowy evening. This would have been her first baby girl that was later named little G, for Georgiana. However, the real Little G, was born on July 29th, far from what would have been a snowy evening. See more »
Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire:
Of all the women in England, you had to throw yourself on her. I have never objected to any of your affairs. I have accepted whatever arrangement you have proposed. But this... I have one single thing of my own. Why couldn't you let me keep Elizabeth for myself? What kind of man are you? She is my sole comfort in our marriage. You have robbed me of my only friend. What is wrong with me?
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Paramount Vantage preferred a PG-13 version for the United States and in order to get that rating some cuts and alternate shots were used. See more »
When Quentin Tarantino presented Reservoir Dogs at Sundance in 1992, he famously stated that Merchant-Ivory productions were a major turn-off for him, much like on-screen violence could be for someone else. No one else seems to agree with him, though, or at least not openly, since lots of British directors are trying to become the next James Ivory (the real one lost his mojo with The White Countess, which also marked his last collaboration with the late producer Ismail Merchant). And while Joe Wright hit the jackpot with Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, his colleague Saul Dibb doesn't fare as well with The Duchess, an elegant but frigid costume drama which fails to be particularly dramatic.
To secure some kudos, Dibb cast Wright's go-to leading lady Keira Knightley as the film's heroine, Georgiana Spencer, whose life changes radically when the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) asks for her hand in marriage. The quality of her lifestyle improves significantly, and all she has to do, as she's frequently reminded by her mother (Charlotte Rampling), is to be a good wife. Unfortunately, that task proves more difficult than expected, since the Duke insists on having a male heir and Georgiana keeps giving birth to boys. All that's left for the poor man is to find a mistress, who happens to be the Duchess's best (in fact, only) friend (Hayley Atwell). Georgiana would like to retaliate by having an affair with her former suitor Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), but common decency suggests she shouldn't. Why? Because she's just a woman.
Unhappy marriage, sex seen as a mere reproductive device, lust for freedom, society of the past seen as a mirror of contemporary events. Sound familiar? yes, the blueprint is obviously Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, a far superior period piece that manages to speak to the audiences of today. Coppola did that thanks to the soundtrack, which emphasized the idea of the Queen of France being a rebellious teenager; Dibb's approach involves parallels with Georgiana's famous descendant, Princess Diana, as well as a political subtext suggesting the Duchess was one of the world's first feminists. Fair enough, as long as he has the substance to back that up. Does he? No. He puts all his energy in highlighting the natural beauty of 18th century England, and in that sense the movie can be mentioned in the same breath as Room with a View or Howard's End. Elsewhere, though, it's pretty basic, with a story that's been told many times before and has no new twists that can add to its dramatic resonance.
The performances are another problem altogether: Knightley might have seemed like a perfect fit for the role and she tries her utter best, but it feels quite theatrical (in a bad way) and overstated, and sh isn't helped by Atwell and Cooper's emotionless staring as support. Fiennes and Rampling, on the other hand, are amazing, especially the former's apparently cold but really entertaining and moving performance - if Bill Murray did period dramas, it would look a lot like that. It's also a bit ironic: the film aims to be female-driven, but is completely stolen by a man.
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