Tuesday, January 06, 2009
The Top Ten things I learned from The Duchess
I ushered in the New Year with a DVD viewing of The Duchess,which made it's way into movie theaters only a few short months ago. Keira Knightley stars as Georgiana,the infamous Duchess of Devonshire whose flamboyant fashions and political passions were all the rage back in 18th century England and ripe grist for the gossip mills of the day.
Ralph Finnes plays her husband,The Duke,who marries Georgiana via a marriage contract that gave her a bonus check upon the birth of their first son(which took a few years,the first two children were girls).
Finnes manages to portray the emotional cold and stunted Duke,who is so self involved that he thinks nothing of leaving the table to go to bed in the middle of a dinner party he's hosting,in identifiable but not sympathetic terms.
Another actor would have been easily tempted to play this role as a Johnny One Note villain and while the Duke does some horrible things,Finnes is adept at showing the audience that this is a man of his time and of a certain class that allowed him to not see any wrong in his behavior towards others,even his wife.
This is Knightley's tale,however,and she really puts in plenty of emotional range as Georgiana grows from a hopeful young bride to a popular party girl and then gains some resolution as a political campaigner for the Whig party,using her fame to help promote the causes she believed in.
She also had to put up being criticized constantly for not producing a son right away,having a good friend of hers become her husband's live-in mistress(Lady Bess Foster,played by Hayley Atwell)right in their own home and having to give up the one true love of her life.
The film is based on Amanda Foreman's renowned biography and after seeing this movie,you will definitely want to read the book to know more. The film does give you quite a glimpse into Georgiana's world but limited to a two hour running time,it can only go so far.
A miniseries might have allowed some more depth and development of the Duchess' inner life but this is a very well done look at a historical figure that most would be quick to write off as just another poor little rich girl.
Without further delay,here are the top ten life lessons The Duchess has to teach you:
10) It is not necessary to know someone in order to love them;having a gut feeling will do just as well.
9) Being moderately free is as possible as being moderately dead.
8) If one of your faults is attracting attention,perhaps that may be a useful advantage for your political friends.
7) The limits on sacrifices to be made for children is debatable:
6) If your wife's wig catches on fire during a party,have one of the servants put it out.
5) Politicians know nothing about fashion.
4) If you control everything,why would you make a deal?
3) The expectations for your wife should be on a higher level that the ones you have for your dogs.
2) When giving up an illegitimate child to it's father's family,it is best to not have set eyes on her before the exchange is made.
1) Being socially stylish makes up for a lot of ugly realities:
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