The Duchess | Chicago Reader

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This historical melodrama gets much of its kick from the parallels between its 18th-century heroine—Georgiana Spencer, who married to become duchess of Devonshire—and her descendant Diana Spencer, the tragic princess of Wales. Played with nostril-flaring indignation by Keira Knightley, Georgiana foolishly weds the icy William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes), who wants nothing from her besides a male heir. (“My wife is in labor!” he announces as she's led howling from a party. “I think this calls for a toast.”) The duchess becomes a beloved figure in Britain, but the duke humiliates her by taking as his mistress her best friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster (Hayley Atwell), then conspires to quash her tit-for-tat romance with progressive Whig politician Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper). Adapted from a biography by Amanda Foreman, this is scandal-mongering fun that also lays bare the deforming power of the male aristocracy. Saul Dibb directed; with Charlotte Rampling and Simon McBurney. PG-13, 110 min.

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