Saturday, September 19, 2009

THE DUCHESS

Cine Europa
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex



Period films usually give out this light and breezy vibe since most of them are about damsels with corsets frolicking in decadent lifestyles and obsessing over frivolities. While others are about strong feisty and independent women who unfortunately are stuck in the wrong era. An era where women have no rights, they are not educated, cannot vote and are often married off to older boorish men who don't make them feel special.

This biopic traces the true story of Lady Georgiana Spencer. She (Keira Knightley) is married off to the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) and finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage. Her sole purpose is to bear a male heir for the lineage to flourish. Her husband openly ignores her for failing to bear a son and seeks solace in the arms of Lady Bess Forster (Hayley Atwell) who happens to be the BFF of Gee (as she was fondly called). Quite typical storyline as far as period pieces go but interesting enough to hold your attention span for almost 2 hours.

Authentic costumes depicting the era coupled with realistic cinematography of lavish scenes of the vast English countryside and the ornate balls reminiscent of the times add to the appeal of the film.

Keira Knightley is surely in her elements as she totally immersed herself in her role. Her chiseled facial features complete with stuffy ballgowns and elaborate hair pieces can be described as a "classic" beauty and it all projects well on screen. Her somewhat subdued acting style was quite forceful and believable. Her characterization of Gee as an independent minded avant guarde 'feminist' was sympathetic in nature. You can't help but feel sorry for her miserable life yet at the same time admire her for her feisty spirit and her radical political views.

As usual Ralph Fiennes can do no wrong. Here as the boorish Duke of Devonshire his brooding style of acting did wonders. To the point that despite being such an insufferable man you couldn't really tag him as a villain. In fact, there was a pivotal scene where the Duke expressed to Gee his regrets on causing her so much misery. He wasn't a bad person and felt as much pressure as Gee into producing a son as it was the dictates of society back then.

This was the UK's entry to the Cine Europa so it was the only film where I didn't have to read subtitles. Although sometimes I wish it did because there were some parts of the dialogue I couldn't hear properly due to the pesky moviegoer who kept talking on his cellphone. Ugh.

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