The Duchess

Sympathetic corsetry

Reviewed by: Alicia Glass
Published on: February 27, 2022 (URL is not
Available on: Hulu
Content release date: 2008-10-10

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

The life-styles of the aristocratic and outspoken, a chronicle of the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and her trials and triumphs.

It is difficult to remember, considering what we modern women take for granted in these oh so permissive times, that women in the Duchess’ time had no real choice. This movie reminds us just how trapped 18th century aristocratic women were, regardless of how high they managed to marry. Regardless, the strength the Duchess shows throughout everything — the adultery in her own house, the passion-turned-hatred for her own husband, the lack of a male heir, and the passion for a younger male constituent — is remarkable and unheard-of. And, unfortunately for our astounding Duchess, quite frowned upon in her time.

Kiera Knightly actually does a very good job in this role. Vaguely reminiscent of Natalie Portman or Cate Blanchett, she gamely endures the foot-high wigs, the corsetry and the cumbersome dresses in the thematic woodsy settings. Ralph Fiennes, of Harry Potter fame, gives a fair performance as the Duke of Devonshire. I personally find it difficult to see him struggle with the role of the hurtful nobleman, the stoic laying down of the law and then later the enraged rape scene that actually results in his fervent desire for a male heir. You can almost see the distaste on Fiennes face, too.

I love costumes, so of course this movie was a big keeper on that score. Just try and imagine wearing that sort of thing on a regular basis, male or female for that matter, and your sympathy is likely to overflow. Along with sympathy for all the rest of it.

This is not a pleasant movie, on any score. But it is accurate and beautiful to look at. So if you liked movies like Elizabeth, The Duchess may be for you!