Sunday, February 01, 2009

When there's no story...

...what's the point?

To fill up some of the boring hours between dinner and the airing of tonight's post-Superbowl episode of The Office, I watched The Duchess starring Ralph Fiennes and Kiera Knightly. The movie runs 109 minutes and feels like about 3 hours. Perhaps I missed some important part, but in my estimation it also seemed to have no point.

Don't get me wrong, the costumes are fabulous, the locations dazzling. 18th Century England is a period of pageantry and fascinating social structure - but beyond the hsitorical value of the film, I found nothing.

The story follows the dismal marriage of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. A well-known figure in politics and fashion of her time, she seemed to be a foreforunner of the modern celebutante...loved by the public for her clothes, her charm and her defiance of certain social conventions. Interesting enough...but what left me feeling bereft was the evolution of the character. She's cited on the cover of the DVD as being 'fiesty, cool and scandalous' and in the 'special features' that come with the film, principals discuss how courageous and triumphant she was as a character.

And I said, huh? Throughout the story, the Duchess seems to be little more than a victim of the stringent rules of the ton. Basically sold into marriage to the joyless, emotionally stunted Duke, she spends the film alternately trying to please him and doing her own thing, which of course leads alternately to wrenching heartache and private disgrace. She never enjoys a defining moment in her life when she puts her 'power' or her life experiences to good use. She never truly prevails.

It's movies like this that make me appreicate romance novels - because in a romance novel, it's inherent that the heroine's struggles amount to something in the end. To follow a story where the main character merely subsists is truly disappointing.

6 comments:

Kristen Painter said...

I haven't seen that movie yet, but I had a feeling it would end up that way.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

For the costumes alone, the movie is worth watching. The work that went into it was astonishing, but beyond that...well. I suppose they can't change the outcome of a real life, but I do wonder if they could have told the story a bit differently so the Duchess could have lived up to her billing.

Kate Willoughby said...

Yeah, I felt like they were pushing that movie a little too hard, and Hollywood usually has a skewed idea as to what the historical heroine truly was up against and what constituted rebellion. Also, I'm kind of sick of Kiera.

Jen said...

The Superbowl aired?

Cora Zane said...

I have mixed feelings on whether or not I want to attempt sitting through the Duchess. Ditto what you said: thank goodness for romance.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

The Superbowl aired?

It was all that stuff on before The Office. From what I hear, the Steelers won.