Who’s In It: Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell
The Basics: Georgiana Spencer, The Duchess of Devonshire, was an 18th century prisoner in a fancy cage. The direct ancestor of Princess Diana, her life was not much different from her descendent: she was the corseted version of a tabloid fixture. She had amazing clothes, was uncharacteristically interested in politics and she was married to a cold fish of a guy who didn’t like her at all. Still, though, it probably beat being a peasant.
What’s The Deal? I have a serious problem and I’m about to admit it right here. As a “film critic” (a label I’ve resisted for a really long time in spite of how it’s my job and all) I have a serious blind spot when it comes to period dramas where people walk around in elaborate costumes and say things like, “Oh Sir Beef of Wellington, it would please me ever so much if you were to join us for dinner and amusements!” I tend to like them just because they exist. Which kind of makes me about 1000% unreliable when I tell you how awesome this movie is. Also? Keira Knightley, who I’m pretty sure isn’t even a very good actress, is someone I will watch in just about anything on screen for reasons I can’t explain because I don’t know what they are myself. I even liked Domino. See?
Who’s Great: During the long stretches of this film where the plot was secondary (at least to me) to estate envy and wig fascination, I managed to see clearly enough to notice that Ralph Fiennes knocks it out of the park as the dull, mean, entitled creep that the Duke apparently (if you decide to take this historical reenactment as gospel) really was.
Why This Might Be For You If You Hated Marie Antoinette: Stylistically it’s night and day. Meaning that Sofia Coppola’s movie had one. This film is so straightforward and tries so hard not to smirk at the past that it forgets to include the Bow Wow Wow songs entirely.
Other Fancy Euro Costume Drama From This Year That You Shouldn’t Have Missed: Catherine Breillat’s The Last Mistress. And it stars Asia Argento so you know it’s got extra weirdness sprinkles on top.