Friday, January 23, 2009

The Duchess - Double Standard

I finally got an opportunity to watch The Duchess
last week, and I liked it much more than I expected to. I guess I had read too many negative comments about it that lowered my expectations. But, I thought it was really pretty good--not a feel-good movie, or even an atta-girl movie--and it certainly didn't portray a complete picture of the Georgiana from Amanda Foreman's bio, Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire (Modern Library Paperbacks), but that would take a 6-part mini-series and not a 2-hour film.

I think Keira Knightley did a good job of convincing me that she was Duchess material (naive, flirtatious, intelligent, ambitious, pragmatic, maternal, resigned), and I felt so sorry for her and so glad that, much as I love history, I am alive in the 21st century and not the 18th. Ralph Fiennes played the Duke perfectly--just the way I imagined him when reading the book a year or so ago. The script and Hayley Atwell were much kinder to Bess Foster than I would have preferred, but you can't have everything, I suppose. Charlotte Rampling was fantastic as Gee's mother--cold, ambitious, I shudder just thinking of her. I wish Fox had been more in the movie, but I liked the brief glimpses we had of him.

The double-standard comes into play in that I am much more forgiving when a filmmaker takes liberties with history to tell a compelling story than I am when a filmmaker takes liberties with certain literary texts (e.g., Austens!) and rewrites them to tell a completing different story. I know I should be outraged when historical facts are fudged in the name of storytelling, but I'm finding that I'm okay with some degree. As long as the facts aren't twisted so badly that the lessons that history can teach us are corrupted. I don't think that happened with The Duchess--Georgiana may have been to the manor born, but it wasn't an easy life, and that comes through in spades.

1 comment:

  1. I have not seen it yet (which is very strange for me because I'm usually there the first night of any costume drama) and I keep "saying" I am going to read the book. I think the whole Keira thing may be putting me off. I'm not really a huge fan, although I do like her in some things... not that I go out of my way to see those things.

    Slightly off subject, but the real drama I want to see is of the Cavendish's distant relatives, the Mitfords. Now, what a fascinating film that would make.