The Duchess

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, portrayed by Keira Knightley ("Bend it Like Beckham," "Pride and Prejudice," "Atonement" and "Pirates of the Caribbean") was a notorious beauty and one of the most outrageous personalities of her time -- the late 1700s. This movie seems to start at Althorp, the family home, which has been in the Spencer family for nearly 500 years, in fact one of Georgiana's distant nieces, Princess Di, is buried there.

The Duke of Devonshire is played to poisonous perfection by Ralph Fiennes, reviled by millions of school children the world over for his unearthly portrayal of "Voldemort," the arch enemy of "Harry Potter."

We are subjected to one example after another which illustrates the powerlessness of women during that time. It was legal to beat them (so long as the stick used was of approved size), deprive them of their children, banish them or otherwise control every aspect of their lives. They had little or no recourse. Their sole reason for existence was to bear an heir, little else.

As written by Jeffrey Hatcher ("Casanova" and "Stage Beauty") and Anders Thomas Jensen ("Red Road"), we see the genesis of Georgiana's outrageousness: her youthful marriage quickly followed by her husband's unapologetic philandering and the ménage a trois that evolves when she invites a hapless friend to stay with them. As a matter of historical fact, the three of them lived together until Georgiana's death, many years later.

Her first extramarital love affair was a poorly kept secret, as was the illegitimate child that resulted. Her lover was future Prime Minister, Charles Grey, portrayed here by Dominic Cooper ("History Boys," "Mamma Mia!" and "Starter for Ten").

If I mention the beautiful scenery, locations, clothes, ballrooms, etc., that will make it official: this is a Chick Flick, although the men in the audience seemed as focused and involved as the women.

Numerous books have been written about this woman because she was an undisputed beauty, she was an influential hostess, she was fiercely political, she was adored by the public, she incurred gambling debts and she lived in a scandalous situation even after she and her husband divorced and he married her friend. All of these things are well documented, so I suspect the script didn't have to exaggerate very much, huh? And looking at Princess Di's life and death, the apple didn't fall very far from the tree...sad to say...