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The Duchess

Biography . Romance . History . Drama

A chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life.

Actors: Ralph Fiennes , Keira Knightley , Charlotte Rampling , Simon McBurney , Aidan McArdle , Alistair Petrie , Georgia King , Bruce Mackinnon , Hayley Atwell , Dominic Cooper
Directors: Saul Dibb
Country: UK , ITALY , FRANCE , USA
Release: 2008-10-10
More Info:
  • Roger Ebert

    This is not one of those delightful movies based on a Jane Austen novel. It is about hard realists, constrained in a stifling system and using whatever weapons they can command.

    Chicago Sun-Times Full Review
  • Noel Murray

    Thoroughly populist and middlebrow, full of all the high wigs, thick powder, perfect diction, and straightforward dialogue that define bodice-ripping prestige pictures about silently suffering souls.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • David Edelstein

    An uncommonly well-crafted historical feminist tearjerker--both anti-patriarchal and a monument to motherhood.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Kenneth Turan

    Even surrounded by all this quality work, Ralph Fiennes, who plays William Cavendish, the fifth duke of Devonshire, the most powerful man in England next to the king, walks off with the picture.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • Richard Schickel

    The players are uniformly good, but a special word must be said for Fiennes, whose portrayal of physical awkwardness and painful taciturnity never begs either for laughs or for sympathy.

    Time Full Review
  • J.R. Jones

    This is scandal-mongering fun that also lays bare the deforming power of the male aristocracy.

    Chicago Reader Full Review
  • Peter Travers

    It's Knightley who makes The Duchess a royal treat.

    Rolling Stone Full Review
  • Carrie Rickey

    While I much liked The Duchess, this portrait feels unfinished.

    Philadelphia Inquirer Full Review
  • Ruthe Stein

    It tells the amazing, but mostly true, story of a late-18th century aristocrat who made an indelible mark on English society akin to that of her direct descendant, Lady Diana.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • Ken Fox

    perfectly serviceable costume drama.

    TV Guide Full Review
  • Claudia Puig

    Princess Diana's antecedent, both genetically and figuratively, was a beautiful and glamorous duchess named Georgiana Spencer. Like her descendant, her charm and vivacity captivated England.

    USA Today Full Review
  • Lawrence Toppman

    If you're fond of wigs, you may be in heaven. If you're more interested in Whigs, you may wish the movie had dug deeper under the lovely powdered surface of Lady Georgiana Spencer.

    Charlotte Observer Full Review
  • Lisa Schwarzbaum

    Fiennes speaks with his body what the script cannot formulate about what it's like to be a man apart. The actor creates particulars of time, space, class, and personality with one crook of a finger, one twist of a wrist. I call that nobility of craft; he's the actors' prince.

    Entertainment Weekly Full Review
  • Kirk Honeycutt

    Keira Knightley is a terrific choice to play the 18th century socialite.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • Stephanie Zacharek

    tThere's life at the center of The Duchess, in the form of Keira Knightley. She carries the weight of the movie around her effortlessly. Full Review
  • David Ansen

    For a number of reasons The Duchess isn't all it could have been. It's fun, but falls short of fabulous.

    Newsweek Full Review
  • Marc Mohan

    Ultimately, though, it's unfortunate that the movie tries to make so many oblique comparisons to more modern tragedy (paparazzi with sketchbooks; yes, we get it!), since Georgiana's life seems fascinating enough on its own.

    Portland Oregonian Full Review
  • Paula Nechak

    Provided you don't take it seriously, it makes for an addictively entertaining diversion that's as hard to stop watching as the books are to stop reading.

    Seattle Post-Intelligencer Full Review
  • Tasha Robinson

    Taken in isolation from the unsatisfying story, the performances are powerful--Knightley’s vivacious, wounded romantic does a great deal to carry the film on sheer personality, while Fiennes is a subtle master at projecting banked menace through his seeming detached ennui.

    Chicago Tribune Full Review
  • Connie Ogle

    Fans of period drama will find things to like about The Duchess; it's not as ludicrous as "The Other Boleyn Girl," for instance, and it's not overly long or ponderous.

    Miami Herald Full Review
  • Ty Burr

    At a certain point, The Duchess stops attending to the topiary and becomes a women's melodrama instead.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • Rick Groen

    As for true-love Charles, he would ascend to the Prime Minister's office, and then rise again to even greater heights: They named the tea after him. Indeed, that may be the smartest way to see this flick, curled up on your sofa with a cup of Earl Grey -- just make sure it's as decaffeinated as what you're watching.

    The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Full Review
  • Bob Mondello

    Director Saul Dibb, presumably knowing that this is pretty standard stuff for a costume epic, occupies us not just with the usual visuals -- of his star drifting through exquisitely furnished estates, draped in rich silks and brocades -- but also with some intriguingly offbeat sights.

    NPR Full Review
  • Elizabeth Weitzman

    A rousing period drama with all the familiar trimmings: gorgeous costumes, palatial settings and romantic intrigue.

    New York Daily News Full Review
  • Justin Chang

    A serviceable picture that offers all the sumptuous visual pleasures of a historical costume drama, yet little in the way of actual history.

    Variety Full Review
  • John Anderson

    It's too bad there's not more substance to The Duchess, because there's lots of acting and, as is required of a Brit-styled period piece, lushness galore.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • James Berardinelli

    It has impeccable production values but feels like a "Masterpiece Theater" production of a Harlequin romance novel.

    ReelViews Full Review
  • Michael Sragow

    The problem isn't the history that the filmmakers leave in, but how much they leave out.

    Baltimore Sun Full Review
  • Ella Taylor

    As a tale of mature self-sacrifice, the movie would be almost unbearably moving were it not for Knightley's insubstantial performance, which allows her to be fatally upstaged by Ralph Fiennes.

    Village Voice Full Review
  • Robert Koehler

    A lumbering number that takes its identity as a costume drama quite literally.

    Christian Science Monitor Full Review
  • Kimberley Jones

    It’s a curiously inert, workmanlike production: a whole lot of pomp and incircumstance.

    Austin Chronicle Full Review
  • Manohla Dargis

    An overstuffed, intellectually underbaked portrait of a poor little rich girl.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Joe Morgenstern

    Instead of scintillation, the movie gives us a succession of discrete set pieces, as if the action takes place in rooms but not in the halls connecting them.

    Wall Street Journal Full Review
  • Kyle Smith

    Everything is predictable three scenes in advance, and it's all stale, stuck, stolid.

    New York Post Full Review
  • Glenn Kenny

    The first masterpiece of 2008 -- at least by American release date standards -- the latest film from master French director Jacques Rivette is a masterful, multilayered, sometimes enigmatic work of dark irony, an assured tragicomedy of manners and more.

    Premiere Full Review
  • Manohla Dargis

    Duchess of Langeais seems to me a nearly impeccable work of art -- beautiful, true, profound.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Kevin Thomas

    Jacques Rivette has brought the Balzac short story to screen as a superb chamber drama. His is a graceful work of austerity and formality that perfectly captures the chaos of repressed emotions that see beneath the rigid conventions of aristocratic society.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • Mick LaSalle

    The movie's satisfactions are subtle, but they run deep, and there are many.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • Steven Rea

    Rivette's slow-moving but seamless study of the rituals of courtship has a disarming grace, even as its downcast hero, Depardieu's Gen. Armand de Montriveau, limps around stiffly.

    Philadelphia Inquirer Full Review
  • Owen Gleiberman

    A highbrow chick flick that made me feel older, in a good way.

    Entertainment Weekly Full Review
  • Noel Murray

    Though not exactly a "comedy" of manners, since it's more melancholy than funny, The Duchess Of Langeais is very much concerned with how the rules of social etiquette interfere with raw human need.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Michael Sragow

    The Duchess of Langeais is a romantic dance of death.

    Baltimore Sun Full Review
  • Stephen Hunter

    With its sophisticated psychology, its brilliant story structure and its riveting performances, The Duchess of Langeais feels very new, even if everything about it is old.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Marjorie Baumgarten

    Balibar and Depardieu make a compelling duo who exude an animal magnetism that's undeniable.

    Austin Chronicle Full Review
  • Michael Phillips

    The performances reveal precisely what Rivette wants to reveal, which is to say, in conventional psychological terms, not a great deal.

    Chicago Tribune Full Review
  • Russell Edwards

    Rivette uses intertitles (including some direct quotes from Balzac) to move the plot along and underline the dry wit. Helming is both leisurely and exact, offering auds ample opportunities to intimately observe the selfishness and folly of two people who would rather fight than switch.

    Variety Full Review
  • David Edelstein

    Rivette has aged into one of cinema’s most ingenious minimalists. In The Duchess of Langeais he uses intertitles--bits of literary exposition--with cheeky understatement.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Nathan Lee

    Rivette is teasing his way, thinking afresh, playing a game but tweaking its rules, telling a story, but only sort of--making, in short, not simply a movie, but that ineffable magic called cinema.

    Village Voice Full Review
  • Stephanie Zacharek

    The picture has an unsettling, haunting quality that I haven't been able to shake. Full Review
  • David Denby

    The Duchess is enragingly elusive and possibly mad; the General is very direct and also possibly mad.

    The New Yorker Full Review
  • Jonathan Rosenbaum

    Masterfully charted and adeptly played, but also rather minimalist.

    Chicago Reader Full Review
  • Marc Mohan

    The performances are solid and subtle, with Depardieu growing nicely into the brooding, smarter-than-he-looks roles his father tackled for years.

    Portland Oregonian Full Review
  • Ken Fox

    Rivette brings a refreshing realism to what could have been a stodgy costume drama, it's still pretty slow going.

    TV Guide Magazine Full Review
  • Stephen Cole

    A typically hypnotic, slow-coiling drama from 80-year-old French filmmaker, Jacques Rivette.

    The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Full Review
  • Ella Taylor

    If anything, as it lathers up into an abortive attempt at scarlet-woman branding and a goofy siege on the nunnery where a dazed and confused Antoinette has holed up, The Duchess of Langeais works best as the comic bondage fantasy implied in its deliciously sly French title: "Don't Touch the Axe."

    L.A. Weekly Full Review
  • Ty Burr

    The film's a minuet fetishistically repeated until either the audience or the lovers go crazy. I'd say it was a tie.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • Kyle Smith

    Jacques Rivette's film is full of painstaking historical detail, but the behavior of the two nonlovers is mired in inaction and emotionally incomprehensible.

    New York Post Full Review
Add Soundtrack
  • 7. German Dance No. 10 in D Major from Twelve German Dances Writer: Amanda Foreman Stream Music Online
  • 9. Largo from Concerto for Violin, Strings and Harpsichord in C Writer: Amanda Foreman Stream Music Online
  • 17. String Quartet No. 3 in D Major, Op. 1: Adagio Performer: The Isobel Griffiths Quartet Stream Music Online
  • 20. Twelve German Dances: No. 10 in D Major Performer: The Isobel Griffiths Ensemble Stream Music Online

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  • love triangle

  • candelabra

  • chandelier

  • candle

  • aristocracy

  • election

  • political rally

  • letter

  • baby carriage

  • rainstorm

  • theatre

  • theatre performance

  • theatre audience

  • theatre box

  • card playing

  • church

  • church bell

  • pigeon

  • embroidery

  • general

  • goose

  • cradle

  • cambridge university

  • parliament

  • chatsworth england

  • old vic theatre london

  • political campaign

  • political campaigning

  • male nudity

  • pretend niece

  • dinner

  • toast

  • dumshire scotland

  • mother daughter relationship

  • royalty

  • prologue

  • wedding

  • 1780s

  • devon england

  • deception

  • deceit

  • pregnancy

  • party

  • roulette

  • passion

  • drunkenness

  • dancing

  • bed

  • london england

  • childbirth

  • reference to school for scandal

  • orchestra

  • castle

  • mansion

  • maid

  • servant

  • horse

  • horse and carriage

  • extramarital affair

  • illegitimate daughter

  • epilogue

  • speech

  • illegitimate child

  • infant

  • scandal

  • tri cornered hat

  • bastard daughter

  • flintlock rifle

  • menage a trois

  • gout

  • woman gambler

  • man and woman in bed

  • political speech

  • political endorsement

  • female protagonist

  • blackmail

  • bare chested male

  • public humiliation

  • scolding

  • bare butt

  • punishment

  • westminster

  • bath england

  • horse drawn carriage

  • dining room

  • undressing a woman

  • female rear nudity

  • where are they now

  • migrating birds

  • member of parliament

  • estate

  • manor house

  • labor pains

  • strong female character

  • political activist

  • strong female lead

  • dog

  • 18th century

  • whig

  • 1770s

  • gambling

  • peer

  • politics

  • politician

  • friendship

  • rape

  • sex

  • rape in marriage

  • arranged marriage

  • unfaithfulness

  • marital infidelity

  • georgian era

  • marital rape

  • infidelity

  • duchess

  • heir

  • marriage

  • marriage crisis

  • gambling debts

  • swan

  • fashion

  • based on book

  • nobility

  • no opening credits

  • family relationships

  • female nudity

  • tory

  • wig

  • wig on fire

  • baby

  • mother in law son in law relationship

  • death

  • loss of mother

  • orphan

  • harpsichord

  • sister sister relationship

  • lesbian subtext

  • wine

  • beauty mark

  • flash forward

  • mirror

  • rifle

  • waterfall

  • pond

  • adultery

  • england

  • duke