Review Covers Both DVD & Blu-Ray Version
Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
I have to admit that I may be a bit biased here, as I really think the cover is well done, but then again, I am a huge Keira Knightley fan. I suppose that one could argue that there is not much here on the cover, as it is just a shot of three of the main characters in full period attire, but it is a crisp shot that portrays the characters themselves. Again, I liked it.
The menu on the regular DVD is much of the same however. Basically the same static shot of the cover, which always seems to me a bit lazy. Had the cover been different, I would not have minded this shot as the menu, but to do both the same just seems to irk me for some reason.
I really enjoyed the features on the standard DVD, even though there could have been loads more presented here. There were no comentaries included, but with a movie with such a slow pace, I am not sure I could have made it through a commentary to be honest. The extras that are included go a long way in describing the design and making of the movie itself, while also going in to just enough detail about the real life of the Duchess that it gave you a good insight into the movie as a whole. The extras were informative, and not too drawn out.
- How Far She Went Making The Duchess – This is a nice short that clocked in at around 23 minutes. It is a making of extra, which is even subdivided, goes into detail about the depth to which the filmmakers went to deliver a period piece that looked and felt stunning in every way. Much of the movie revolves around the fashion and style of the clothing and surroundings, and this short does a great job of showing the thought that went into making the Duchess feel authentic, while still keeping the movie looking subconsciously modern. Very informative and an excellent view into the detail that was used to give this movie it feel.
- Georgiana In Her Own Words – By looking at the letters that the Duchess actually wrote herself, author Amanda Foreman was able to peice together her book Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, which the movie was based on. This rather short piece examines some of the letters that the Duchess actually wrote when she was married to the Duke. and amazing view into the actual life of a woman who was thrust into a lifestyle that was completely new to her.
- Costume Diary – The Costume Diary was a look at the actual costumes that were presented on-screen to help tell the story. At about 5 minutes in length, this was a look at the coloring and outfits that were used in the film to present different periods of the life of the Duchess. It was interesting to see how light and dark were used in Georgiana’s outfits to portray her emotional state. not my favorite of the extras, but interesting.
The Movie: 8/10
The Duchess is a movie about Georgiana, a 17-year-old aristocrat who at the beginning of the movie learns that she is to be wed to William Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire. The Duke is one of the most powerful men in all of England, and is close to the King himself. The film is a portrayal of the true story of Georgiana, who becomes known as the Duchess of Devonshire.
Played smartly by Keira Knightley (who I have to openly admit I adore), Georgiana is at first thrilled ot learn of the marriage, only to find out that the Duke is not the most open or warm-hearted man. the Duke is played by Ralph Feinnes, who is perfect as a distant aristocrat who has neither the time or the patience to deal with anything that he feels is beneath him, which unfortunately includes his new bride. The Duke abhors politicians, and loves women, and treats both with the same casualness that one would expect form someone who is overtaken with power.
The Duchess is informed early on that her one task is to bear the Duke a male heir, which becomes the obsession of the Duke, and the disdain of the Duchess, further driving them apart. The Duchess is forced to take in the illegitimate daughter of the Duke and one of the maids, and then she bears two daughters, which enrages the Duke to no end.
The Duchess quickly becomes the talk of the aristocracy as she expresses herself through fashion and style, garnering fame almost beyond that of her husband. She puts up with her husband’s ice cold exterior by pouring herself in to fashion, gambling, and drinking. An old friend Charles Grey emerges as a political leader in his own right, and the attraction and passion that her marriage lacks is sparked when Grey runs into the Duchess at a dinner party.
At the same time, the Duchess befriends Bess, a woman who is struggling from the demise of her own marriage, and the two become fast friends. When she moves in with the Duchess, it does not take long before the Duke is found with Bess, the Duchess’ only real confidant, and the Duchess runs into the arms of Grey.
The story itself sound like a romance novel, but it is the true story of one of the most admired British ladies in history. The acting is very well done, which it absolutely has to be in a movie such as this. The emotions that are presented are done so through the acting, and it works. My only complaint is that the movie does seem to drag now and then, followed by parts that feel rushed. An example is the affair with Grey, which is presented too quickly, and almost haphazardly. Perhaps I am nitpicking here, but with such long development of these relationships, it just seemed to jump to a conclusion near the end. I understand that perhaps they did not want to drag out the movie forever, but with the long dinner scenes, and the development of the relationship between the Duchess and Bess, the affair seemed to be presented too quickly and without much development. Other than that, I thought the movie was very well done, and an interesting look into the past. The struggle that the Duchess went through to try to find her voice, and then the fact that she was forced to “settle” if you will for a compromise was both hard to watch at times, and intriguing. I think the presentation of Georgiana was brilliant, and well pulled of by Keira Knightly, and a excellent period piece.
Audio & Video: 9/10
I viewed the standard DVD & the Blu-Ray version, and was thoroughly impressed with the video and audio. Presented in wide screen, the video was crisp and very bright. Of course it always helps when a movie is created to look good, and the Duchess is painstakingly presented as a period piece of the 1770’s. The costumes and sets are simply stunning, and are very much a character in the movie. Blu-Ray has the obvious edge but the DVD is no slouch either.
The audio was very nicely done, and presented in 5.1 Surround Sound (True HD on the HD Disc). This was another dialogue rich movie, and the use of the Surround Sound was mainly during atmospheric scenes or party sets, but it was good. Overall the audio was spot on.
I really enjoyed the Duchess. It is a beautiful period piece about a strong willed, intelligent female who sought to express herself in the only ways that she could in a male dominated society. While she was not always successful, she did her best to live within her boundaries, while attempting to change the system. I would recommend the movie to anyone, even though I am not sure that many will want to view this over and over. Therefore I would suggest renting the Duchess. The acting was really good, the story was nicely presented, and the movie itself looked amazing.
Overall Score 8/10