The Duchess

Georgiana Spencer (Keira Knightley) was married at 17 to a wealthy and emotionally constipated William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes), the fifth Duke of Devonshire. He had only two requirements—to provide him with a male heir and her loyalty. As Duchess of Devonshire, she becomes an integral part of London's high society and one of the most impassioned political voices of Britain in the 18th Century.

My wife and I are both fans of period pieces, and The Duchess is a winner with its fabulous sets, location shooting, and excellent casting. We found the screenplay to be a little tedious, especially during the prolonged second act, but it does a commendable job of telling the real-life story of Georgiana Spencer's challenges as the Duchess of Devonshire.

The AVC encode is a bit of a disappointment for a new release. The print is in excellent shape with no blemishes, but the cinematography isn't as jaw-dropping as other films in the genre. Colors are somewhat muted, and while the location shooting includes some beautiful vistas, they never appear razor sharp and always look slightly out of focus in the background. Close-ups are slightly sharper, but facial features lack the definition I've seen on other Blu-ray releases.

The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is unremarkable in its sound design, but the dialog comes through with succinct clarity. The surround speakers are barely used other than an occasional ambient noise and some minor score bleed to the rear. The track lacks any significant dynamic range, but the front soundstage has some decent separation between the left and right speakers.

The highlight of the bonus features is a 22-minute look at the history of the main character and an inside look at the production. Other supplements include two short featurettes on the letters of Georgiana Spencer on which the movie (and book) were based and a look at the costume design in the film.

The sets and costumes are fabulous, but the story falls a bit short. While somewhat entertaining, it's not something that would hold up well with repeat viewings. If you're a fan of the genre, be sure to give it a rental.

Release Date: December 30, 2008

Movie: 6/10
Picture: 7/10
Sound: 7/10

Review System

Panasonic DMP-BD55

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics