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They eventually consummate their affair in a scene that refrains from showing them nude but which is nonetheless—once again—explicit. Later, we see them in bed together after a separate tryst. Georgiana tries to make a deal with her husband—he can have Bess if Georgiana can continue to take Charles as her lover—but he rejects it. He calls her a whore, says he will not be made a "cuckold," and insists that Bess' boys are "bastard" sons instead of suitable heirs.

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The duke chases Georgiana into her bedroom and pins her beneath him; we then hear the sounds of him raping her. Afterwards, he says, "Give me a son. Until then, stay here and do as I say. A blurry painting of a nude reclining woman can be seen in the background of one scene. And it almost goes without saying that the women's corseted costumes place a lot of cleavage on display throughout the film. Beyond the duke's rape of his wife, Bess has bruises on her neck that she indicates are from her abusive husband.

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Characters are frequently shown drinking wine at various meals, political functions and parties. Georgiana drinks during her pregnancy. Once, she is visibly intoxicated.


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She staggers about and ends up setting her wig on fire. The duke also gets drunk.

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It's hard to overstate how cold and calculating the duke is. He claims that he has fulfilled his responsibility as a husband but says that Georgiana has not fulfilled her responsibility as a wife, namely, by producing a male heir. As if that justifies everything he's done up to that point.

His selfish character is especially evident in the fact that he treats Bess as his wife even after Georgiana confronts him. Georgiana ends up telling the duke that she loves Charles and wants a divorce. He responds by telling her that unless she gives up her relationship with Charles, she will never see her children again. Georgiana and Bess go to a play that mocks marriage's constraints. We see Georgiana and many other nobles engaging in different forms of gambling at parties. Anytime you think you've got it bad, consider this: You could have been born a British aristocrat.

Is there anyone more miserable than 18th century nobility? According to The Duchess , the answer is no. But similarities between that story and this one end there. There's all kinds of pride in The Duchess. But forget about overcoming prejudice. Instead, what we get is the increasingly painful story of a woman whose dreams are dashed upon the rocks of her husband's stonily unalterable views about gender roles.

And even as she's subjected to his cruel dictums, viewers are subjected to scene after scene of sexual content that's more explicit in what it powerfully suggests than what it actually shows. We're also invited to sympathize with Georgiana regarding her adulterous affair with Charles Grey "Everyone has a lover," she angrily tells her husband.


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  • Given the duke's monstrous treatment of her, we're tempted to rationalize, Who wouldn't flee to the arms of a passionate soul mate in that situation? To its credit, the film shows Georgiana wrestling with her indiscretions and eventually making the right—if heart-wrenching decision—to stay with her children instead of fleeing with Charles. And I suppose it could be argued that there's historical merit in recognizing just how far we've come from the 18th century. Many of the freedoms and rights that Georgiana had only begun to imagine have been largely realized in many parts of the world.

    But at the end of The Duchess I wasn't much disposed to be thinking in those terms. Because like Atonement before it, Knightley's latest exercise in depressing storytelling is little more than a sexually obsessed tale that ends tragically ever after.

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    Positive Elements The Duchess depicts Georgiana as a strong, independent woman who's devoted to the ideals of personal and political freedom. Spiritual Content Unusual for a period piece like this, there's nary a mention of God in The Duchess. Sexual Content The duke's ravenous sexual appetites first become apparent when he cuts the buttons off Georgiana's wedding dress and roughly yanks back subsequent layers to uncover his terrified new bride's body.

    Georgiana also—eventually—becomes pregnant with Charles' child. Violent Content Beyond the duke's rape of his wife, Bess has bruises on her neck that she indicates are from her abusive husband. Crude or Profane Language The duke says "d--n" three times. Drug and Alcohol Content Characters are frequently shown drinking wine at various meals, political functions and parties. We see men smoking cigars. Other Negative Elements It's hard to overstate how cold and calculating the duke is. Conclusion Anytime you think you've got it bad, consider this: You could have been born a British aristocrat.

    Pro-social Content. Objectionable Content. Summary Advisory. Plot Summary. Christian Beliefs. Other Belief Systems. Authority Roles. Discussion Topics. Credits Rating.

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    Readability Age Range. Genre Drama Romance. Director Saul Dibb. Distributor Paramount Vantage. Record Label.