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The Duchess

Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

(No longer in theaters)
  • Rating: PG-13 — for sexual content, brief nudity and thematic material
  • Director: Saul Dibb   Cast: Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell
  • Running Time: 105 minutes
  • Reader Rating: Write a Review




Michael Kuhn, Gabrielle Tana


Paramount Vantage

Release Date

Sep 19, 2008

Release Notes


Official Website


Although it skims the surface, The Duchess is an uncommonly well-crafted historical feminist tearjerker—both anti-patriarchal and a monument to motherhood. It’s based on Amanda Foreman’s biography of Georgiana Spencer, the duchess of Devonshire, played by Keira Knightley with her long neck and strong jaw, the better to keep her erect and poised while dissolving on the inside. Like her descendant Diana, she has been married off to a wealthy and influential cold fish (Ralph Fiennes) who wants only a male heir, and who ultimately takes her gal-pal (Hayley Atwell) into the household as his mistress. Every turn is telegraphed, but Fiennes’s duke is a fascinating stiff—uneasy with his privilege but ruthless in using it. Not only is Knightley most excellent, her starved-supermodel look adds an affecting subtext: that the economic impact of male disapproval still inhibits women’s freedom.