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The Duchess - Blu-ray DVD / historical drama DVD review
THE DUCHESS Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Actors: Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell
Director: Saul Dibb Distributor: Paramount
DVD release: 27 December 2008 Runtime: 109 min.
(1 disc)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish), How Far She Went.Making the Duchess; Georgiana in Her Own Words, Costume Diary, Theatrical Trailers

Georgiana Spencer (Keira Knightley) lives a life of leisure, playing party games with friends and accepting playful flirtations from men - the kind of life that the well-to-do have to endure in the mid-1700s. One day her mother, Lady Spencer (Charlotte Rampling), announces that it has been decided that Georgianna shall marry the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes). Georgianna is thrilled yet asks if the duke loves her. Lady Spencer answers in the affirmative.

When they marry, G, as the Duke calls her, soon discovers that the royals of the time are celebrities of a sort (not unlike now). From the very start the Duke seems distant, aloof, preferring to lavish his dogs with all the attention she hopes for. She is expected to be loyal and to produce a male heir. She instead produces two girls and has to withstand many infidelities by the Duke, yet is not allowed the same freedoms.

Hers is a life of leisure but mostly devoid of warm human contact. When she finally befriends a woman named Bess (Hayley Atwell), the Duke allows her to move into their home. Soon, however, he makes advances toward her and essentially takes her as a concubine; G is not offered the same convenience. The Duke treats Bess' boys with more warmth than he affords his own daughters or wife.

Georgianna's existence revolves around luxury, public speeches, gambling and drug use. The public idolizes her, and every fashion she wears is soon imitated by others. Not unlike her descendant Lady Diana Spencer would. G uses her celebrity to further causes she believes in and enjoys a troubled public life. Her story is worth hearing, and well told here.

Keira Knightley is excellent in the lead role, playing it with depth and humor. Charlotte Rampling is excellent (as usual) as the strict, stolid mother who offers guidance to her daughter on how to be a public figure. Ralph Fiennes plays a man of the time, acting how you'd expect a man of those times to act. His public face is most important. It's hard to be sympathetic to the duke, but those were more patriarchal times.

The locations used for shooting The Duchess are the still-standing locales where the duke and duchess actually lived. The opulence and beauty in these places is gorgeous on this Blu-ray edition, the fabulous fabrics used for the costuming crisp and clear. This is really the way to see the film.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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