A sweeping period drama about Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, The Duchess is a bland, largely flavorless story that takes one of the more interesting women in British history and reduces her largely to her relationships with the men in her life. From a purely technical standpoint, there's nothing bad to say about the filmmaking: The extravagant period costumes are resplendent with detail, the cinematography is gorgeous, the music is soaring, and the acting's solid but not great, but overall the film left me with the feeling of biting into a cream puff and finding that someone forgot the custard filling, leaving nothing but a hollow pastry and empty air.
Part of what hurts the film is the script, which is based on the
autobiography of the same name by Amanda T. Foreman. There are three screenwriters credited to the film (which may be part of the problem): Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen, and Saul Dibb, the film's director. Their script takes the life story of a vibrant woman who was politically active and influential a century before the women's suffrage movement, and dilutes it to little more than a romantic drama of love triangles and oppression. Which is fine, I suppose, if that's all you want or expect of a period piece, but I was left with the feeling that there was so much more that was important and interesting about Georgiana's life that got lost in the focus on making a tragically romantic tale.