Dec 7, 2008
In short: a fabulous feminist bodice ripper, if you can imagine such a thing. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie, 'cause I didn't expect much. But Keira Knightley gives a spirited performance as Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire, married to a very obtuse Duke, played by Ralph Fiennes, an actor never afraid of playing unsympathetic characters quite unsympathetically. And even so, his Duke is not a mustache twirling villain, but a dull, blunt, inarticulate, boorish man who is used to his way or the highway. Yet Fiennes finds some pained sympathy in the brute. La Knightley rises to the challenge with surprising skill. She is so much better in this movie than in Atonement; she is turning into a resourceful actress. It also helps she has the face of a movie star, gorgeous, but not always perfectly perfect. The camera loves her. The costumes are divine, the movie feels like being inside a luscious wedding cake, and it is a classic, smart chick flick with unrequited passions and a good female character and heartbreaking pain. I must confess I cried (and was so surprised the movie got to me, I immediately started looking for reasons, was it pms, was I ovulating, or was it the lovely music by Rachel Portman?).
Apparently, this celebrated woman, who was a wit and a proto-feminist, is an ancestor of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales. The movie has the infinite good taste not to mention this, though some of the particulars of both women's loveless marriages resonate nicely. However, it seems Georgianna was a far more interesting, independent creature than the vulgar modern version we got.
The Duke marries Georgianna so he can have a male heir. She gives him 2 daughters and two stillborn boys and he keeps blaming her for the mistake. Of course, through her endless pregnancies Keira Knightley mantains her hourglass figure and her elfin beauty intact, and I would have wished that they showed what it meant for this woman to give birth in those days (not necessarily with the cliche of a woman screaming at childbirth, just a bit less glamour).
In those days they didn't know about chromosomes and men kept women down, down, down with their idiotic notions of honor and virtue, which were nothing but means to control and oppress women. As is still the case in way too many places on Earth.