The Duchess

Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes

Directed by Saul Dibb
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3
Community: star rating
5 3 0
September 18, 2008

The trailer makes this costume drama look like a dude's nightmare, all hotness buried in yards of lace and crinoline. But in telling the true (enough) 18th-century story of young Georgiana, the handful who got stuck marrying the haughty, unfaithful Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes), the filmmakers plugged in a live wire. That would be Keira Knightley, an actress with a gift for bringing humor and heat to period pieces (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice). Based on Amanda Foreman's biography of the Duchess, the film, directed perfunctorily by Saul Dibb, underlines every parallel it can find between Georgiana and Princess Diana, starting with the Duke's affair with Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell). Knightley meets every challenge of the role as the Duchess becomes a devoted mother, an infamous fashion plate and a favorite of the common people. She too takes a lover, in the person of Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper), with whom she has a bastard child. She even finagles a truce with the Duke. Fiennes gives a quietly devastating performance in a part that could have been played for pure villainy, especially in a scene of marital rape. Instead, this consummate actor finds the details that help us understand the forces, noble and ignoble, that forged the Duke's character. Make no mistake, the film belongs to Knightley. There's a fire in her eyes that won't be extinguished, and it keeps us in her corner despite, or more likely because of, the mischief she sparks. It's Knightley who makes The Duchess a royal treat.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Wake Up Everybody”

    John Legend and the Roots | 2010

    A Number One record by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in 1976 (a McFadden- and Whitehead-penned classic sung by Teddy Pendergrass) inspired the title and lead single from Wake Up!, John Legend's tribute album to message music. The more familiar strains of "Wake Up Everybody" also fit his agenda. "It basically sums up, in a very concise way, all the things we were thinking about when we were putting this record together in that it's about justice, doing the right thing and coming together to make the world a better place," he said. Vocalists Common and Melanie Fiona assist Legend on this mission to connect.

    More Song Stories entries »