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The Duchess

Keira Knightly in Old Fashioned Dresses!

The Duchess treads the same tired ground that so many films have been before -- and with forgettable results. Too bad we’ve seen this story told over and over. And over. Co-written by Director Saul Dibb (his second film after Bullet Boy), Jeffrey Hatcher (Casanova) and Anders Thomas Jensen (After the Wedding, Open Hearts) the film is immediately doomed by too many clashing visions.

Keira Knightly stars as Georgiana Spencer, The Duchess of Devonshire who, despite her popularity as a fashion icon and political force, cannot overcome her role as an oppressed woman in 18th century England due to her womanizing and demeaning husband The Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes). At first delighted to be marrying a man with such power and charisma, she soon learns that her only purpose is to produce an heir.

She soon grows tired of her position as a wife while becoming a celebrity during her time. Her life oddly mirrors Marie Antoinette’s, who was having the same issues only over in France, as well as Princess Diana's (who is a direct descendant) and while the similarities are interesting to note, it just makes for redundant films. But, unlike Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette which (love it or hate it) at least attempted to inject a new originality into a tired tale, The Duchess plays just like the exhausted old story it is, accented by Knightly's penchant for overacting.

I can't even remember the last time she was in a film that took place in the last 25 years. She is in danger (if the line hasn't already been crossed) of becoming a cliché for only choosing roles in period pieces. Don't make any mistake, Georgiana had it rough -- real rough -- but it's no longer a fascinating tale in its own right.

Of course the film wouldn't be complete without a true love interest for Georgiana, who is acknowledged within the first 30 seconds of the film. Even this subplot is boring and unexciting. Dominic Cooper's portrayal of Charles Grey (later the Prime Minister of England) is flat and uninspiring. This is the guy who wooed one of the most beautiful women of their time and later led the country?

Even the cinematography is stale. It's predictable and just so...normal. This film offers nothing new in any department. The only respite is Ralph Fiennes acting. While not offering the best performance of his career is quite malicious, yet empathizing, as The Dutch of Devonshire. It's not that it’s a terrible film -- it's just not terribly interesting.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars