The Duchess (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Saul Dibb|
|Produced by||Michael Kuhn
|Screenplay by||Jeffrey Hatcher
Anders Thomas Jensen
|Based on||Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
by Amanda Foreman
|Music by||Rachel Portman|
|Edited by||Masahiro Hirakubo|
Magnolia Mae Films
|Distributed by||Pathe Distribution (UK) StudioCanal (Germany)|
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 United Kingdom. The film received the Academy Award for Best Costume Design at the 81st ceremony in 2009. The film costumer was Michael O'Connor
The young Georgiana is contracted in marriage to William Cavendish, in order that he produce a male heir. A motherless child, Charlotte, comes to live with them. William expects Georgiana to mother the child. Georgiana gives birth to a girl. William is not pleased.
Georgiana socializes with the young Lady Bess Foster at Bath. The Duchess kindly invites Lady Bess to live with them, since she had no where else to go.
William has an affair with Lady Bess, causing Georgiana to feel robbed of her only friend. Bess explains to Georgiana that her motive is to regain contact with her three sons. Meanwhile, Bess continues to live with them.
Georgiana starts an affair with Charles Grey. William is outraged that Georgiana should suggest that since he has Bess that she should have Charles as a distraction. William rapes Georgiana; a male child is the product.
Bess encourages the affair between Georgiana and Charles. The Duke threatens to end Charles' political career and to forbid Georgiana from seeing her children again if she does not end the relationship. Georgiana ends her relationship with Grey, and she tells William that she is pregnant with Charles' child. She is sent to the countryside where she secretly gives birth to their daughter, Eliza Courtney. The child is given to the Grey family to raise.
Georgiana finds comfort in Bess' friendship, and gives permission for William and Bess to marry.
Georgiana in secret visits her daughter Eliza. Eliza goes on to name her own daughter Georgiana, after the Duchess. Charles later becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom under Queen Victoria.
- 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 Georgiana Spencer, Countess Spencer, Georgiana's mother
- Dominic Cooper as Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
- Aidan McArdle as The Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan
- Simon McBurney as The Right Honourable Charles James Fox
- Sebastian Applewhite as Sir Augustus Clifford, 1st Baronet
- 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 was produced by British Qwerty Films and American Magnolia Mae Films, with financial support from BBC Films, French Pathé and Italian BIM Distribuzione. The film was shot at Twickenham Film Studios and on location at Chatsworth, Bath, Holkham Hall, Clandon Park, Kedleston Hall, Somerset House, King's College London 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 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."
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. 
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 Bailey, the co-chair of the Toronto International Film 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 and Rebecca Alleway||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Costume Design||Michael O'Connor||Won|
|Best Make-Up and Hair||Daniel Phillips and Jan Archibald||Nominated|
|British Independent Film Awards||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|
|London Film Critics' Circle||British Actor of the Year||Ralph Fiennes||Nominated|
|British Actress in a Supporting Role||Hayley Atwell||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Ralph Fiennes||Nominated|
|People's Choice Awards||Favorite Actress||Keira Knightley||Nominated|
|Favorite Independent Movie||The Duchess||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Best Art Direction and Production Design||Karen Wakefield and Michael Carlin||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Gyula Pados||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Michael O'Connor||Won|
- The Daily Telegraph, 16 August 2008: On-set report: The Duchess Re-linked 2013-12-16
- 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. 22–29 August 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: 30 July 2008.
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