October 1, 2008
The Duchess: Come and Knock on our Door
"Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."
Ironic that those were the words Princess Diana used to describe her marriage to Charles, when in fact, her 18th century ancestor, Georgiana Spencer, had the same damn problem!
While watching "The Duchess" last night, I couldn't help but think of the 1970s sitcom, "Three's Company," which aptly paralleled the film.
Ralph Fiennes, as the Duke, would be Jack Tripper, who spent his time stumbling over his words, as opposed to falling over sofas. He had some serious control issues, partly because try as he might, he really didn't have much couth with the ladies. I don't think his much-coddled dogs were "Regal Beagles," but they were close.
Kiera Knightley, as the Duchess, would be Cindy/Chrissy, the charismatic beauty with crazy coiffures whom all the fellows love. She was given to dimwitted mishaps like knocking her hair into flaming candelabra and having serious "blonde moments": Whoops! I married a cruel and callous a--hole!
That leaves Hayley Atwell, the Duke's mistress and the Duchess's BFF, as Janet. She's the brunette, no-nonsense one. (Last night Kim and I kept thinking "What else has she been in?" This morning I googled her: Brideshead Revisted's Julia! Duh!)
They all live together in one house and HILARIOUS (okay, maybe not) drama ensues. And yes, just as Mr. Roeper thought there might be some funny business happening in that apartment, the two girls were borderline bi-curious it seems.
Who would be crazy neighbor, Larry, you ask? Not sure. Perhaps, Keira's eyebrows, which seemed to embody a life of their own in this film, not to be overpowered by her tremendous wigs and hats.
The movie was cliche-ridden: the trepidatious deflowering of a virgin; the abhorrent husband demanding a male heir, not deigning to glance at his daughter when it's born; lots of shots of Keira walking down halls -- with a fierce purpose -- her dress train swishing the floor behind her; an imposing, over-the-top score accompanying every "dramatic" kissing scene; much wailing and gnashing of teeth during a baby hand-off moment. It was a bit much, even for Kim and I who happen to eat that melodrama up with a spoon.
Still, the costumes, sets, etc. and the soap-opera caliber storyline made it definitely worth our while. For anyone who gets caught up in the "Oh, I wish I lived two centuries ago and could find my Mr. Darcy" fantasy world, this movie will snap you back to reality. Fabulous estate aside, marriages back then weren't so great. But if you, the Mr. and his mistress can all just learn to get along, well, three's company, too!