Saturday, October 11, 2008
Movie Review: The Duchess (Part 2)
WARNING: After you pass this line you run the risk of reading about aspects of The Duchess you may not want to know until you see it for yourself. If you have seen the film, by all means please continue and be sure to leave your opinion as well. If not, please move on to other conversations of gossip unless you don’t mind spoilers!
If you have rejoined me here after my long review of The Duchess, I am impressed! I am glad you haven’t been scared off just yet. This part of my review is separate because it is a review based on The Duchess’ adaption to Amanda Foreman’s book, or the movie’s accuracy to the portrayal of Georgiana Cavendish. And for that I will give it:
The Film as a BioPic
Rating: 1 Star
Yup, it was not that accurate at all. In fact, while I was watching it I think I was able to enjoy it because I couldn’t connect Gee with Georgiana, the 5th Duchess of Devonshire. They are two different people. I won’t go through every minute little inaccuracy in this post, I will just touch about the main ones that really bother me. Now that leaves me with the dilemma of where to begin this review. I suppose I should begin at the beginning.
The movie opens with 16 year old Georgiana playing at Althorpe with her friends. One of these friends includes age-mate Charles Grey. If Grey had known Georgiana at this point in her life he would have been about 9 years old. She did not meet him until he became involved in politics in his 20’s. I didn’t see the point in them writing him into her early life.
This brings me to my next big qualm. The time frame was all over the place in this film! First of all, it appeared that Georgiana got pregnant right away, no problemo. Part of her struggle in bearing an heir was the fact that it took her about 9 years in order to have a child. The film then has a “6 years later” caption and shows Gee introducing her huge hair tower and feathers. No, no, NO! Fashion faux-pas to the max! She did that at the beginning of her marriage and by 1789 (when the movie shows her introducing the fads) that was extremely out of fashion. In fact, regency fashion was blooming at that point. Did anyone else notice how the children never really aged either? Wasn’t it strange?
Yes, the family dynamics were all off. Lady Spencer went past assertive, caring, mother to just plain mean. In reality she was very protective of Georgiana and was known to occasionally boss the Duke around too. She was one of the people to go to France with Georgiana when she gave birth to Eliza Courtney.
I was very much bothered by the lack of Harriet. Harriet was such an important part of Georgiana’s life and always portrayed next to her in prints. She was also an amazing woman who was overshadowed by her celebrity sister. Did they exclude her in order to emphasize the isolation of Gee?
This brings me to a huge flaw in the film. The writers were so obsessed with creating this victimized heroine who lives in a prison of isolation that they created a major contradiction. I was commenting to Lauren in our post-viewing meeting about how I was alarmed that Gee was alone most of the time. There are letters from the time discussing Georgiana’s day hour by hour (she was a celebrity remember, and people were obsessed with her) and she was rarely alone. In fact, she usually was surrounded by a group of women (the ton) who were noticeably absent. I think they could have been more convincing of her celebrity and fashion-icon status, and instead they were just mentioned. For example, at one point Bess says “Everyone is staring at you,” and the women in the background didn’t actually appear to be looking at Gee. Georgiana was bombarded by crowds while walking in the park. Lauren and I were remarking that just mentioning her friendship with Marie Antoinette was an obvious and easy way of showing her celebrity and status to the audience. Then Lauren brought up how it is probably confusing to the audience when Gee’s celebrity is mentioned, but it is not actually proven. Basically you are supposed to believe it because you are told, but given no examples.
Two huge aspects that are very prominent, and therefore important, in Georgiana’s life are her role in politics and her addiction to gambling and battle with debts. She was shown giving speeches on the platform and gambling (with a sourpuss on her face) but that is about it. I thought it must have been confusing to viewers that she was promoting Grey with Charles Fox (where were his eyebrows??) paraphernalia: fox tails and FOX clearly written on a ribbon on her hat.
That brings me to my last major gripe, our favourite tart, Bess. I wish they portrayed her as more of a sweet little manipulator. I DID NOT like how they implied that her husband beat her. Give me a break…OH that was one of the cheesy lines that bothered me, “it is legal for a man to beat his wife as long as the stick is smaller than their thumb,” yes thank you Bess, we learned that in Boondock Saints. But seriously, that line was out of place, and it was unnecessary for Bess to be a battered wife. But what bothered me was Gee screaming at William that she wanted Bess out. The importance of portraying Bess as a manipulator was that when Georgiana discovered the affair, she was so dependant on Bess that she swallowed her pain rather than loose her beloved Bess. Maybe that is hard to conceive for our modern audience, but it is what made the situation so unique.
There were a few things I did appreciate the film including. One was the sudo-lesbianic scene between Bess and Gee. Although this may have been for titillation or making sure male companions are still paying attention, it alluded to her bisexuality. I also did like how they showed the scum-baggery of Grey getting engaged fast after the affair. So the writers did pick up on some details but for the most part, just used Georgiana as a gateway to tell a love story.