Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Duchess. . . history repeating itself

Betina here. Just got back from seeing "The Duchess," and I'm thrilled to report that it's a winner in all respects. History, fashion, intrigue, romance, betrayal. . . in short, the sordid secrets of high nobility on display. Sort of like watching the present day Windsors. Which only makes sense, since Lady Diana Spencer (aka Princess Diana) was a direct descendant of the duchess in question, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

The story opens in 1774 with the marriage of 17 year old Georgiana (called a rather modern sounding "G" by her intimates)to the duke of Devonshire, who is the second wealthiest and most influential nobleman in Britain at the time. Hubby is played with remarkable British "thickness" by Ralph Finnes. . . who at first you hate and later come to pity. . . sort of. He's not a man of much erudition or vivacity or sociability (his description). He's a high-born lout (my description). Maybe because his mother drank wine like a fish when she was preggers with him. . . since that was what Georgiana did all through her pregnancies. Anyway, he needs a prime young filly to give him an heir and the "honor" goes to bright, lovely, adventuresome Georgiana. And boy are they mismatched.

Though the duchess was remarkable for her beauty, her fashion sense, her lavish spending, her politics, her cult of celebrity, her canny use of personal endorsements, and her infamous private life. . . the story focuses mainly on the one thing she did not/could not have. . . LOVE.

Her private life consisted of a very strange and painful set of arrangements that we as modern women watch with astonishment and horror. She was considered by her husband as little more than a brood mare and her entire life was considered a failure because she hadn't produced a male heir for her husband. He was such a clod, he wouldn't even look at or talk to the two daughters she bore him. . . he pined for a precious son and heir. Eventually she had one, but only after he. . . well, let's just say he was a brute and a swine, okay?

And when she brought home a lady friend and confidant, her husband took the woman away from her and made the woman his mistress! Talk about "three people in this marriage" as Princess Diana said. . . the poor duchess had it in spades. Her husband forced her to have breakfast with him and his mistress(her former best friend) at their table each morning!!!! Some of those scenes are just heartbreaking.

Worst and most fascinating of all. . . it's based on a true story. The facts as they are presented in drama are entirely true and well documented. We can only guess at the true feelings, but there are letters and such to detail much of it.

Now the good to great stuff:

Costumes: TO DIE FOR.
Sets and Scenery: Heavenly and completely authentic.
The shots of late Georgian era Bath alone are worth the price of admission
Studly male actors: not many, but Dominic Cooper gives good "smolder" and "brood."

Keira Knightly was wonderful and the rest of the cast was great.

If you like historical dramas and great costuming and a real immersion in an era, go see The Duchess.

If you want to know what it was like for women in the good old days. . . go see The Duchess.

If you want to see how history repeats itself, go see The Duchess. . . and think of Princess Diana's life. It's nothing short of amazing.

And when you come home from the movie, thank Heaven that you live in the 21st century!


Lori said...

I'm dying to see this one! Thanks for the great insight!

Michele Hauf said...

Betina, I agree with everything you said. I saw it yesterday and LOVED it. Costume orgasm, anyone? I know nothing about English history so it was very interesting for me to watch and relate it to some of today's celebrities, and how they live their lives for all to see.
And how sad! Really a tragic tale of a beautiful young woman who was determined to make her way, but couldn't push beyond society's constraints for women in those days.
I don't normally care for Keira Knightly in movies, but I did like her in this one. And Fiennes was right on the mark with his squicky duke.
I'm going to have to see this one again. Just for the costumes!

Debra Dixon said...

Wow! This is fascinating. "G," huh?

The visuals are stunning.

I'd love to put it on my list but hubby and my BFF will both say, "Not happenin'"

May have to see it via NetFlix later.

Anonymous said...

This is one I'll see with the hubs. Not his cup of tea! But sounds like spades.

Great review, Betina

Betina Krahn said...

Lori and Arkansas Cyndi. . . by all means go see it and take the DH. I took my "Other" and he was fascinated. the whole "children" thing is something that can reach everybody who has or wants kids!

Michele, I may have to see it again, too. And Oh, yeah-- the costumes. On the web site forr the movie, they have a special section on costumes. they didn't allow copying a photo or I'd have brought one over for the blog. FABULOUS.

And Deb. . . it's worth seeing just to inform yourself on the state of women's power at the time our country was being born. Even the most privileged had inhuman constraints. A woman's children could be taken from her by her husband at any time-- they were assumed by the law to be HIS PROPERTY, nomatter how he beat them and his wife.

They even mention the "thicker than a man's thumb" rule which was part of the legal standard for what was permissible beating for a wife. ::shudder::

D Twomey said...

I'm not usually drawn to this type of movie, but your review makes me want to see it. It sounds fascinating...

Thanks for sharing Betina!

Helen Brenna said...

I see a matinee in my future!

Betina Krahn said...

So welcome, D Twomey! Be sure to come back and let us know how you like it!

And Helen, matinees are my favorites. Lower prices, no crowds, and easier parking.

Also saw "Body of Lies" this weekend. Fairly good. Lots of great "location" shots in the middle east. Leo DeCaprio was great a usual. But I felt like Russell Crowe kind of phoned it in. Not one of his best roles.

Found a hot new actor to watch. . . Mark Strong. . . who plays the Jordanian intelligence chief. Yeowsa! Made me forget Leo was present. Mark Strong sizzles in this movie! Steals the show altogether! And that's saying something. I couldn't wait for him to come back on the screen. And the way he dressed. . . now that's a MAN!

If I had to make a choice, I'd go for "The Duchess," hands down! Much better film making and some education in the process. But Mark Strong. . . hmmmmm. . . worth a long, long, long look.

catslady said...

I too am hoping I get to see this movie soon!