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Duchess, The Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 December 2008
ImageAfter hearing so many positive reviews of "The Duchess" I must admit I was quite looking forward to reviewing this title.  Unfortunately, I find it tough to understand why "The Duchess" received such wonderful reviews during its theatrical run.  The film is bland, boring, and so simplistic it is insulting to some of the better English films.

Keira Knightley plays the Duchess of Devonshire, a spunky woman with the best fashion sense during the late 1700s.  Ralph Fiennes is the Duke of Devonshire, who is so bland I sit writhing in my chair.  Haley Atwell is the only life to the film.  She is sexually liberated for the time period and has a great presence surrounding her.  That's basically all for the characters.

The story is even worse.  It is so ordinary and simplistic you sit just waiting for something to change.  The entire film can easily be summed up; a young woman in good standing is given away to a boring jerk of a Duke for the sole purpose of providing a male heir to his family line.  She bares girl after girl, so the Duke begins sleeping with random other women, eventually forcing himself on the woman's one and only friend.  So, the woman in turns begins having an affair with a politician and gets pregnant.  In the end the woman, "best friend" and Duke all live together in the same household, barely tolerating each other.  The end.

In all honesty, the plot is a simpler version of the previously released, "The Other Boleyn Girl."  That film, too, was tough to sit through, but at least it had a more intricate plot.  In "The Duchess" there is no reason for us to like or care for any of the characters.

Also, compared to films like "Elizabeth," "The Duchess" lacked a unique cinematography.  The shots were all standard and uninspiring.  For all the hype I expected much more from this film.

The video quality is decent, but once again, not as spectacular as it should have been.  The image is relatively flat and lacks a host of lush colors.  The elegant costumes lack some ornate texture.  However, there are a variety of scenes in which details are easily seen on the costumes.  Shadow delineation is okay but not great.  Contrast is slightly over blown.  I have a feeling that this is due more to the limitations or inexperienced crew during the filming process.  There is a fine layer of grain that is not distracting.  There does not appear to be edge enhancement or compression/motion artifacts.  A solid presentation, but not nearly as colorful and inviting as "Elizabeth's" HD DVD presentation. This is the third disc in row that I have watched that may as well have the surround channels turned off.  In fact, I thought maybe something had gone wrong with my system.  However, putting on "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" I found my sound system to be working just perfectly.  The LFE channel breaks through once or twice.  Once again, the primary element of the soundtrack is the dialogue.  The dialogue is fairly clean and clear, however the level sometimes dips low enough that you will be reaching for the volume control.  A pretty sparse soundtrack.

There is also not a host of bonus materials present on the disc.  First, there is a typical making-of featurette, "How Far She Went…Making 'The Duchess.'"  "Georgiana In Her Own Words" takes a look at the not-so-interesting character of played by Keira Knightley.  "Costume Diary" takes a look at the ornate costumes used in the film.  Lastly a couple of theatrical trailers are present.  All bonus materials are presented in HD.

"The Duchess" just doesn't make the cut for me.  There are numerous other British films that have better cinematography, characters and storylines.  However, those lovers of time period pieces may want to check out this film.  The video quality is strong, but lacks that Blu-ray polish.  The audio quality is fair for a very unentertaining soundtrack.  Give it a rent would be my recommendation.

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