The film will hold the attention of anyone fascinated by Princess Diana. But it's hardly Greek tragedy.
It's hard to know exactly where, but at some point during the production process, The Duchess clearly became so fascinated with being an 18th-century precursor to the Princess Diana story that it forgot to be a movie. Here, as the blanket marketing campaign duly informs us, we are presented with Georgina Spencer (Keira Knightley), the great-great-great-great-grand-aunt of the late Princess of Wales. And guess what, says the movie, they were just the same! Thus Spencer is trapped in a loveless marriage with William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes), the fifth Duke of Devonshire, who has his own Camilla-type mistress in Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell). Plus Spencer, like Diana, is a style icon (she is introduced at soirees as "the empress of fashion herself!"), and a crusader for personal causes. The film will hold the attention of anyone fascinated by Princess Diana. But once the similarities between the two women are hammered home, its slim semblance of momentum stagnates, leaving us with a glossy portrait of a really rich woman married to an even richer man who can't express his feelings. Which, as we know, is hardly Greek tragedy.