Sunday, 5 October 2008
Keira Knightley's Lady Cavendish is the Diana Spencer ancestor who is contracted into marriage with Ralph Fiennes' Duke of Devonshire for the principal purpose of providing him with a male heir.
The Duke, Britain's most powerful aristocrat (outside the Monarch presumably) is an emotionless man for whom the arrangement is primarily a contract whilst Lady Cavendish enters the marriage with idealistic thoughts of love.
The drama, based on true events, treads predictable pathways once the now Duchess fails to provide the contracted male heir. Charlotte Rampling is a strong presence as Lady Spencer, the Duchess' mother and Dominic Cooper of The History Boys and Mamma Mia pedigree is the man candy distraction.
Maybe it's just me - I don't think it is my gayness - but I am put off by Keira Knightley's facial expressions. In The Duchess, she often looks to me as though she is having trouble with her sinuses.
It's all handled tastefully so that the sex scenes, including a rape, amount to less than soft porn. There are plenty of scenes of the grand aristocratic life for visual impact and to cover the boring bits. There are helpful notes at the end which explain what happened to each of the main characters in later life.
Much has been made of the film's marketing link with the late Diana Spencer and viewing the story it is difficult not to think of the comparisons.