The Duchess (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Saul Dibb|
|Produced by||Gabrielle Tana
|Screenplay by||Jeffrey Hatcher
Anders Thomas Jensen
|Based on||Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
by Amanda Foreman
|Music by||Rachel Portman|
|Editing by||Masahiro Hirakubo|
|Distributed by||Paramount Vantage
|Running time||110 min.|
The Duchess is a 2008 British drama film directed by Saul Dibb. It is based on Amanda Foreman's biography of the 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. It was released in September 2008 in the UK.
Set in the late 18th century, the story follows the life of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. While her beauty and fashion made her famous, extravagance and gambling made her infamous. She was married to the cold and much older William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire. Despite the Duke's blatant infidelities, Georgiana thrived to become a fashion icon, a doting mother, a shrewd political operator, and darling of the common people. In befriending Lady Bess Foster, who becomes her best friend, Georgiana realizes she has made a big mistake when Bess and The Duke begin an affair. Despite Georgiana's anger, the Duke wants Bess to remain living with them. Bess later explains to Georgiana that the reason she had sexual intercourse with the Duke was so that she could get her children back. The Duke only wanted a male heir, which the Duchess had not yet provided. But the implication is that Bess could, already having three sons, which the Duke became very close to, and thought of them as his own.
In response to the betrayal she experienced at home, Georgiana allows herself to develop feelings for Charles Grey. However, when she asks the Duke permission to have him as a lover, the Duke is enraged and rapes Georgiana. The rape leads to a pregnancy and a male heir, William Cavendish, is born. After producing a male heir, Georgiana (with the help of Bess) begins a physical love affair with Charles Grey, which leads to another pregnancy. The Duke threatens to not only end Charles' political career but also to forbid Georgiana from seeing her children again if she does not end the affair. For the sake of her children, Georgiana reluctantly ends the affair. She is sent to the countryside where she secretly gives birth to her and Charles' daughter, Eliza Courtney. She is forced to give her over to the fathers family, the Greys.
For most of her married life, Georgiana, the Duke, and Bess lived together. However, after the birth of Eliza, Lady Georgiana no longer seems to be bothered by the arrangement and she once again finds comfort in Bess' friendship. Towards the end of her life, the Duchess gave her blessing to the marriage of her husband and her best friend who got married after Georgiana's death.
Georgiana frequently visited her daughter Eliza in secret, who was raised by the parents of Charles Grey. Eliza named her own daughter Georgiana. In the end, Charles became Prime Minister.
At the end of the movie it is strongly suggested that in consistently choosing the lesser of two evils in a situation she could not escape, Georgiana was able to rise above her circumstances to do the right thing for a higher cause. Case in point, her children grew up with a mother, even the daughter she abandoned knew that she loved her. Charles also became Prime Minister, leading the country in the direction that Georgiana believed in.
|This section requires expansion. (April 2013)|
- Keira Knightley as Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
- Ralph Fiennes as William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire
- Hayley Atwell as Lady Elizabeth 'Bess' Foster
- Charlotte Rampling as Countess Spencer, wife to Earl Spencer
- Dominic Cooper as Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
- Aidan McArdle as Richard Brinsley Sheridan
- Simon McBurney as Charles James Fox
- Sebastian Applewhite as Augustus Clifford
- Calvin Dean as Devonshire House Servant;
- Emily Jewell as Nanny;
- Richard McCabe as Sir James Hare;
- Bruce Mackinnon as actor playing Sir Peter Teazle in The School for Scandal;
- Alistair Petrie as Heaton;
- Georgia King as actress playing Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal;
- Camilla Arfwedson as Lady Charlotte
The Duchess is financed by BBC Films and Pathé. The Duchess was filmed at Twickenham Film Studios and on location at Chatsworth, Bath, Holkham Hall, Clandon Park, Kedleston Hall, Somerset House and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
Regarding lead actress Keira Knightley, director Saul Dibb said The Duchess was "a chance to take a character from late childhood – she's married at 17 – into full adulthood, 10 years later." It was also a chance for Knightley to work with Ralph Fiennes, whom she regarded as one of her most accomplished co-stars to date; Dibb said, "When I said, 'We've got Ralph interested in playing the Duke', we both took a gulp and went, 'F---.' [sic] ... But I didn't for one second feel that she wasn't up to the task." Originally the film was to be directed by Susanne Bier.
Studio executives wanted to use digitally-altered images of Keira Knightley in promotional materials. The alterations were specifically aimed at enlarging her breasts. Knightley objected to the alterations and they were not used. The marketing campaign also drew criticism for its use of Diana, Princess of Wales, who was an indirect descendant of Georgiana's. The advertising used slogans such as "two women related by ancestry and united by destiny" and even used "There were three people in her marriage," the latter being an almost identical copy of a famous quote that Diana, Princess of Wales uttered during her Panorama interview. Michael Hellicar of the Daily Mail stated that "the Diana link is being so heavily, and it has to be said, so cynically and crudely promoted."
Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, criticised the marketing strategy too, saying "They probably thought the only way to get the young popcorn-eating brigade to see the film was if they thought it was about Diana, but it wasn't necessary and they should never have done that. And the line 'united by destiny' is wrong. I don't think Georgiana actually died in a carriage crash".
Theatrical release 
The BBFC has classified the film as a 12A, citing the scene of implied marital rape, which is "delivered through Georgiana's screams of protest, heard from outside the bedroom door." The BBFC's PG rating allows implied sex as long as it is discreet and infrequent; the board decided that the scene in The Duchess is more than "discreet" or "implied". The film had its world premiere on 3 September 2008, in Leicester Square and was released nationwide in the United Kingdom on 5 September. 
Critical response 
The film received mostly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 61% based on 163 reviews, with the consensus that "While The Duchess treads the now-familiar terrain of the corset-ripper, the costumes look great and Keira Knightley's performance is stellar in this subtly feminist, period drama.."
Most reviewers highly praised Knightley and Fiennes' performances. Time Out London wrote: "[Saul Dibb] is also helped enormously by a mature, restrained portrayal from Knightley, a masterclass in passive aggression from Fiennes and a performance of tender seduction from Atwell." The Epoch Times writes, "Ralph Fiennes brings a human quality to [the Duke] by avoiding any intent, exaggeration or ill will" and "Keira Knightley's performance gains new depth – she not only perfectly portrays a witty and feminine Georgiana early in the film, but also a caring mother, and an abandoned woman later on. Also remarkable in this role is Knightley's ability to portray the strengths, weaknesses, and the internal hurdles of Georgiana, as well as her internal contemplation." Film Ireland writes "It is a slow movie but it is well acted with Knightley and Fiennes suited to their roles, especially Fiennes who gives a formidable and powerful performance." Cameron Baily, the co-chair of The Toronto International Festival comments; "The Duchess Of Devonshire, with Keira Knightley, which is a beautiful film and she gives a really mature performance. You're seeing her really turn into something beyond the kind of pretty face that we've seen her do already so well. But she's actually a very serious actress and she's turning into a great, great performer."
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote that "Dibb's movie looks good" but complained the film was "exasperatingly bland and slow-moving at all times" handing out a 2 of 5 star rating. However, Paul Hurley gave the film 8/10 and called The Duchess "an excellent new film" and states that "The Duchess stands a good chance of taking home some very big prizes at the end of the year".
|Awards ceremony||Award Category||Subject||Result|
|Academy Awards||Best Costume Design||Michael O'Connor||Won|
|Best Art Direction||Michael Carlin||Nominated|
|BAFTA Awards||Best Costume Design||Michael O'Connor||Won|
|BIFA||Best Actress||Keira Knightley||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Ralph Fiennes||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Hayley Atwell||Nominated|
|Best Technical Achievement||Michael O'Connor (Costume)||Nominated|
|Golden Globes Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Ralph Fiennes||Nominated|
|People's Choice Awards||Favourite Actress||Keira Knightley||Nominated|
|Favourite Independent Movie||The Duchess||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Best Art Direction and Production Design||Karen Wakefield, Michael Carlin||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Gyula Pados||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Michael O'Connor||Won|
|London Circle Critics' Film Awards||British Actor of the Year||Ralph Fiennes||Nominated|
|British Actress in a Supporting Role||Hayley Atwell||Nominated|
- On-set report: The Duchess The Telegraph. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
- DAWTREY, Adam (29 July 2007) Keira Knightley set for Duchess: Actress to play the controversial blueblood, Variety
- "2008 Fall Movie Guide: Preview: The Duchess". Entertainment Weekly, Issue #1007/1008. Time Inc. August 22–29, 2008. p. 50. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
- (18 September 2006) Susanne Bier finds The Duchess: Open Hearts helmer glamming up for period love story, Total Film
- Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld. Fox News. Broadcast date: July 30, 2008.
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- From Time Out London
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- none (2008-12-13). "2008 13th Annual SATELLITE Awards Nominees=Satellite Awards". Retrieved 2008-12-13.