Directed by Saul Dibb
The life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, mirrors that of her descendant Princess Diana.
It’s ironic that The Duchess is the “least compelling character” in her own story, said Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly. Georgiana Spencer wed William Cavendish, the fifth Duke of Devonshire, in 1774. The marriage was loveless but she made the most of it by becoming an 18th-century “It girl.” Georgiana’s life story, which later made her a feminist icon as well as an inspiration to her descendant Princess Diana, is fascinating. But The Duchess doesn’t give her the depth she deserves. British beauty Keira Knightley, though well suited for period dramas, is “not a very deep interpreter of her roles.” Ralph Fiennes is left to pick up the slack as the unfaithful duke, said Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. His “quietly complex” performance is “the wonder” of the film. With subtlety and stature, he offers a “most sympathetic portrait” of a despised man. It all adds up to a “rousing period drama,” said Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News. Complete with “gorgeous costumes, palatial settings, and romantic intrigue,” The Duchess is always “lovely to look at” even if it doesn’t paint a complete picture of this complex woman.