Plot: What’s it about?
Georgiana Spencer (Kiera Knightley) was born into a family of means and now she has just been married, to the Duke of Devonshire (Ray Fiennes). So she has moved from wealth to super wealth and power, into the Duke’s spacious castle. While she is beautiful and much younger than her husband, he admits his main interest in the marriage is to produce a male child, to serve as his heir. At the same time, Georgiana was interested in being part of a powerful union and the social access involved, so the marriage wasn’t one based on love for either person involved. When she gives birth to girl after girl, the Duke is enraged and ramps up his extramarital affairs. Georgiana also steps outside the union for sexual purposes, so neither remains faithful to their vows. As each side rushes to find solace elsewhere, will either ever find a shred of true happiness?
I have become more and more appreciative of period dramas as I have gotten older, as the story depth, costumes, and overall production scale can be impressive. The Duchess looked to have a lot of potential, with ample production values, a solid cast, and a plot taken from real life events. As it turns out however, this proves to be a case of style over substance, as The Duchess looks good, but has little under the surface. The writing is unfocused and that results in several issues that are touched upon, but never actually explored in depth. The characters aren’t well developed and of course, that makes it difficult to connect to them or invest ourselves in what happens to them. I looked forward to The Duchess and had high hopes, but this was a disappointment. But the movie looks great in high definition, that much is certain. So if you’re a period drama addict, give this a rental, but otherwise, leave The Duchess behind and seek out one of the better genre efforts out there.
Video: How does it look?
The Duchess is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer looks good, but the rather soft visual design ensures that detail is never that remarkable. I could tell this was sharper than the DVD, but not by a wide margin, which is quite a disappointment. The visuals come across well, with bright and natural colors, not to mention accurate contrast levels. The film’s visuals do seem like they could stand out a little more, but the limits of the source are to blame, not this transfer. So a good looking presentation, but held back by the soft visual design.
Audio: How does it sound?
This Dolby TrueHD 5.1 option is passable, but don’t expect much aside from the bare requirements. The vocals sound clear and never suffer from errors, but the rest of the elements seem rather held back. The music has a pleasant sound, but doesn’t have much life, which can be said of this soundtrack on the whole. The surrounds don’t have much to do and while this material isn’t audio driven, it could still pack more of a punch than this. This disc also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes three brief featurettes, as well as two of the film’s theatrical trailers.