Mr. Movie

'Duchess' dulls fine performances by Fiennes, Knightley

Every year, there are one or two films in the old English mold where the main characters live in a damp old castle.

They’re filled with ghastly costumes, mile-high wigs and haughty stiff-upper-lip very British dialogue.

I’m not a fan.

The latest is The Duchess starring Keira Knightley. It is a biopic about the life of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. She’s an ancestor of the late Lady Di and Sarah, the former Duchess of York.

She also may have been England’s first feminist. Georgiana was unhappily married. Her stuffy, disconnected husband--wonderfully done by Ralph Fiennes--has many affairs and eventually forces her to live in a ménage-a-trois with her best friend.

Undeterred, she gambled, caroused with men of politics and the theater, and she had an affair and a child with Charles Grey, who later became England’s prime minister.

You’ll spend a lot of time in The Duchess wondering if the film has a point. Though her personal history is fascinating, director and co-writer Saul Dibb’s screenplay and storytelling is not. He connects you with 18th century British politics, but he underplays Georgiana’s contribution to the feminist movement to come.

And--on a technical note--the story takes place over a long period of time and yet Georgiana's children never age.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, brief nudity. It opens Friday at the Carmike 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself