The Duchess, the story of a young noblewoman who marries Britain’s most powerful peer and becomes the toast of London, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray December 28th from Paramount Home Entertainment.
Keira Knightley (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, Pirates of the Caribbean), Ralph Fiennes (In Bruges, the Harry Potter series, The Constant Gardener) and Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!) star in this dismal, tragic tale of a vibrant woman trapped in a loveless marriage at 17 to the wealthy and influential William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes), the fifth Duke of Devonshire, a man who cares more about his dogs and his lineage than his wife. His disgust with her grows as she bears two daughters, and to further complicate matters and insult his wife, he takes a mistress into his house, into his household, and into his social life. The Duchess of Devonshire and “Empress of Fashion” eventually must face an agonizing choice between responsibility and love.
The movie is based upon the true story of young Georgiana Spencer, direct ancestor to Princess Diana, who marries into power and becomes a fashion icon in her day. While the movie hints at her role in politics and press blurbs calls Georgiana “a devoted mother, a voice for the common man,” the movie dwells much more on such unsavory aspects as the scandals: her affair with Grey, her brutal rape by her husband, his affairs, and even deviates into a brief pseudo-lesbian scene. This “devoted mother” leaves her children to have an affair, and according to the movie, almost doesn’t return to the them. The “devoted mother” is also forced into giving the illegitimate child she bore Grey up. As Duchess of Devonshire, she reportedly becomes one of the most impassioned political voices in all of 18th century Britain, but this interesting point is sort of lost in all the titillating scandals that are bound to sell more tickets and DVDs than the “voice for the common man” ever could.
The acting is at times superb, and the gowns and scenery are sumptuous eye candy, but the movie has few redeeming plot lines. This is definitely not a movie for teens or children, or for people who want to feel good after seeing a movie. It is a depressing tale of the way even noble women were often treated in Great Britain by their husbands during the day as their role at the time was that of a brood mare, as well as prized possession, if they were lucky. The lack of morals in a society that claimed to be Christian was appalling. I felt like I needed a bath and a steaming mug of hot coco to lift me out of the funk I felt after viewing The Duchess. History buffs might enjoy the movie if it follows the story of Georgiana Spencer relatively closely.
The Duchess DVD is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TVs with Dolby Digital English, French and Spanish 5.1 Surround and English, French and Spanish subtitles. Total run time is 109 minutes. The Duchess on Blu-ray is presented in 1080p High Definition English 5.1 Dolby True HD with French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. Total runtime is 109 minutes. Bonus features on the DVD and Hi-Def features on Blu-ray include:
• How Far She Went…Making the Duchess – A fascinating documentary featurette explores the life of Georgiana Spencer Cavendish and the era that she came to define.
• Georgiana In Her Own Words – Amanda Foreman, author of the award-winning biography Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and producer Gabrielle Tana hold a roundtable discussion at the archive of Chatsworth House—home of Georgiana and her family—reviewing letters, diary entries and artifacts that helped shape the historical landscape of Foreman’s biography, the inspiration for The Duchess.
• Costume Diary – A darling of high society and a fashion trendsetter, the Duchess was well known for her extravagant wardrobe. Costume designer Michael O’Connor talks about creating the outlandish and beautiful costumes that would become some of the film’s most flamboyant characters.
Street date: December 28, 2008
DVD Pricing: $19.99 U.S./$24.99 Canada
Blu-ray Pricing: $29.99 U.S./$36.99 Canada
Blu-ray Catalog #: 140074
Runtime: 109 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity and thematic material