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Top reviews from the United States
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Reviewed in the United States on December 18, 2017
I must disagree with those who found this movie to be unengaging, poorly written, or melodramatic. Keira Knightley was able to take on a role of a lady within a past society where women were very much controlled by men. She acted this splendidly and with much emotion, much as she did within the movie pride and prejudice. The orchestral choice for each scene was beautifully depicted and the overall message of the movie was moving. This, I would argue was not dramatic, but rather written the way it was for the purpose of conveying a message of suppression within this time era, as she could not make her own choices which was the reason for her overall unhappiness. I loved it, most movies or shows like this tend to contain too much drama in the sense that the plot is about the women's control over the men, how they earned power through their marriage and used it to their advantage. This movie was about the sentiments of one main character and her unjust life of which was rather saddening, which is not dramatic in the least, in my opinion, but rather showcases the lives of many women within that time era.
Reviewed in the United States on September 26, 2017
I'm giving this three stars, not because it isn't a fine, well acted production, but because the movie fails to convey much about this fascinating woman. She was a writer, scientist, and a contemporary of many of the leading minds of her day. While her intelligence is suggested, this movie never moves out of the shallow end of the pool.
Reviewed in the United States on November 19, 2017
I didn't know anything about Duchess Georgiana prior to my viewing of this movie. I love history though, especially European history and culture. so I was drawn to this. Of course after watching it, I had to do my research. I now know that much of what is in this film is not historically true, and I don't think the movie did a fine job at all at showing us what a remarkable, and kind woman she was. Nevertheless, my knowledge does not change my opinion about the movie. I think the acting is superb, as well as the costumes, and cinematography, just wow! The movie is a visual masterpiece. The acting is great, parts of this movie are so tragic, and painful to watch. Overall, for me, I think this movie is just beautiful to watch, and it took me back to a time that once was.
This film is largely based on the actual life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the renowned Georgian beauty, political and intellectual hostess, and lover of Earl Grey (yes, the one who invented the delicious tea--who knew he was such a stud!), and an ancestress of Princess Di. I've never cared much for Keira Knightly except in 'Love, Actually'--one tries to suppress the dreadful 'Pride and Predjudice'--but she is remarkably good here. Despite that, it's Ralph Finnes who runs away with the film, as Georgiana's husband the initially cold and utterly selfish Duke of Devonshire, whose glacial exterior masks a caring and rather loving nature (by the standards of the time). Dominic Cooper is clever and very studly as Mr, Grey (not yet an Earl), and Charlotte Rampling is superb as Georgiana's mother, Lady Spencer, caring and affectionate, but cold and implacable, again by the standards of the time. In fact, very few films have ever recreated the true zeitgeist of an era as well as this one. It's truly as if one had stepped back into the era.
Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2017
A thoroughly engaging movie - I read the book several years ago, and if I recall correctly, the movie stuck pretty well to the original. The cast is excellent, the costumes and sets are superb. If you're unfamiliar with Georgiana's story or the upper-class mores of the time, the plot may drag or seem confusing. For all of the heaving bosoms and lingering glances, a lot goes unsaid. In the book Fox played a much more central role and there was considerably more information about Georgiana's role in politics than was implied here. The roles of gambling, debt and fashion were also underplayed in the film. Perhaps I've become too accustomed to mini-series or multi-season format...I expected more detail given the length and breadth of Georgiana's influence and the parallels in the life of her descendant, Diana Spencer/Princess Diana. Given the "shorter" format of a theatrical film, the Duchess delivers and is a must-see for lovers of historical costume drama.
Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2017
Some time after the beginning of the film we hear the phrase "freedom in moderation" and I believe this to be one of many basis to the film. Georgaina is young, beautiful, rich, has the attention of all of society and is a Duchess to top it off.. Everyone wants to know her or be her but if they knew the truth, would they ? Of course, anything that happens inside her home is privy to all of society - freedom ? in moderation I suppose.
But lets leave that phrase aside. Lets not talk of the constraint on freedom implemented by men. Of course all that was infuriating but of equal focus should be the inherent constraint placed on existing.
I think a lesson that Georgaina has learned is that we aren't truly free in the greater sense of the word. She experiences this with love ... the most volatile and purest of emotions. We are tied by love, our politics, religion, emotion, etc. or like choosing your love for one thing over your love for another.
5.0 out of 5 stars“Please put out her Graces hair.” [5th Duke of Devonshire]
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 8, 2016
This 2008 semi-biographical drama is set in the late 18th century and tells the story of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Famed for her beauty, fashion sense and political acumen, she is also remembered for her extravagance and gambling habits. Married to the cold and much older William Cavendish, she soon discovers his licentious behaviour and befriends Lady Bess Foster, but discovers that Bess and The Duke are having an affair which then becomes very public. So what will the outcome be? The movie takes quite a few historical liberties and ambles along but while it lacks action, it more than compensates with lavish sets, superb acting and the rivalries of the day. However, this ultimately focuses on the Dukes overwhelming desire to have a male heir and the notorious infidelities of the main characters. Some of the dialogue is badly handled, but these are few and far between, although the modern politicking, compression of time [the film actually covers some 20 years] fudging of ages [she was married at 17 to the 25 year old Duke –not someone twice her age] does grate in places but avoids becoming soap-boxy, while there are some smart dry one-liners. The single disc offers play, scene selection, special features [making of, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, photo gallery, other releases] and set-up [audio description on/off, HoH subtitles on/off]. Rated 12 due to an implied marital rape scene, a female nipple and some mild sexual lead ins, this has little to offend other than the politics and social conventions of the time. If you like tragic or forbidden loves, enjoy costume dramas or social history, then again, this could be for you. If you want nudity and action scenes, then avoid and I sincerely doubt many younger teens will find this as riveting as their older counterparts might. Essentially it’s a wonderful drama about an older man born and shaped by his time, and a young woman who is born before hers and the friction and wreckage these disparate lives cause.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 21, 2020
An entertaining and absorbing biographical period drama based on the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. As others have noted, this is the 18th century as interpreted for a modern audience and it's historical accuracy in some instances is decidedly shaky, but taken on it's own terms it's an emotionally engaging film that is thoughtful and sensitive to it's subject without losing too much authenticity. Given the British film industry's long experience of costume dramas (with some strong BBC input) it's a visually sumptuous effort that certainly captures the costume and look of high society of the period. This is the film that brought Keira Knightley to my attention as a serious actor – she carries the film very well with a strong supporting cast – particularly Ralph Fiennes as the Duke; It`s a slow-moving film which may be problematic for those with short attention spans and I trust prospective purchasers will ignore the Knightley-haters who have contributed some of the negative reviews on this page and judge the film on it's merits for themselves. I think on the whole it is a fine effort and while no substitute for reading the book it is based on – or any other book on the subject for that matter – this is not a bad attempt to relate the main substance of the Duchess's story for a modern audience. The standard UK DVD release has some extras – 5 short making of featurettes totalling about 40 minutes and some deleted scenes. English subtitles are available.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 4, 2017
I really enjoyed the Duchess. It is a beautiful period piece about a strong willed, intelligent female who sought to express herself in the only ways that she could in a male dominated society. While she was not always successful, she did her best to live within her boundaries, while attempting to change the system. I would recommend the movie to anyone, even though I am not sure that many will want to view this over and over. Therefore I would suggest renting the Duchess. The acting was really good, the story was nicely presented, and the movie itself looked amazing.
Based loosely on Amanda Foreman's biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the film paints a far more simplistic picture of the book's subject. The book was also more sympathetic towards the duke than the film portrays.
But, as we all know, films are dramatic structures rather than biographies searching for the truth. The producers of the film (and Amanda Foreman is credited as one of its executive producers) have successfully conveyed some of the life and times of `The Duchess' in their final product, although the portrayal of the vast palace that is Somerset House in the Strand as a stand-in for the long-demolished Devonshire House on Piccadilly is one example of a tendency towards being somewhat OTT. Nevertheless, the cast is strong enough and the production values high enough to make this costume-drama appealing and worthy of more than one play.
The extras on my DVD include a forty-minute `Making Of', featuring interviews with cast and crew. (The most informative is Amanda Foreman herself.) There are also three deleted scenes and a photo gallery.
5.0 out of 5 starsPeriod drama at its most dramatic.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 1, 2019
A fascinating tale, having the added merit of being true (although with some embellishment and liberties). The (very) tiny titted Keira (twice) Knightley gives her (only ?) stand out acting performance as the Duchess. The locations are sumptuous, the couture impeccable, the story riveting; what is not to like?