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The Duchess

Year: 2008
Studio: Paramount Vantage
Director: Saul Dibb
Cast: Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Hayley Atwell
One of the most unsatisfying movies of the year. Yes life was undoubtedly like this for women in those days, even royalty. But the filmmakers must have known it would end with the audiences wanting to throw things at the screen.

Like many stories from the classical era such as the works of the Bronte sisters, it's really about the life of a woman as a second-class citizen, how they had virtually no rights, no capacity for self-direction and no value beyond convenient marriage.

When a minor lass (Knightley - and can she play anything else but period ladies? Wait, there's Domino... yes, that's all she can play) marries a powerful but emotionally retarded Duke (Fiennes, brilliant as always and not afraid to be truly hateful), she's catapulted into the higher echelons of high society and soon the doyenne of the party set.

Despite her liveliness, her marriage is one cruel betrayal after another thanks merely to her failure to produce a son and heir. That her husband takes up a friend of hers as his lover and has the fat slut living in their castle with him is cruel enough, but then he forbids her from seeing her own childhood sweetheart.

That everyone around her including her own politically scheming mother instructs her to resign herself to her fate for the good of the Duchy is worse still, and that the final scene has the three apparently all having accepted the arrangement and cohabitating is the most frustrating of all.

A myriad of other cruelties are visited upon her, including the spiriting away of a baby she'll never be able to mother, and the story is one sumptuously dressed misery after another. Realistic? Absolutely. Entertaining? Not in the slightest.

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