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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A man treats his wife like property, insisting that she provide him with a male heir. He also ignores their daughters and insists on keeping a mistress and flaunting her under his wife's nose.
Violence & Scariness
A man forces himself on a woman in a brutal scene, though there's no blood or injury. She's clearly affected by it and appears shell shocked afterward. Some threats are made between characters, there's some yelling, and a little boy is shown handling a firearm. Some discussion of wife-beating after a woman is shown with bruises on her skin.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some scenes of couplings/simulated sex in which both men and women are nude, though viewers don't see genitalia. Additional scenes hint at sex by training the camera on a door, behind which there's much moaning and rustling. A woman caresses another woman. There's also an unusual relationship in which two women share a man. Briefly, a woman is sighted leaving a man's bedroom, her naked backside showing.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lots of drinking, mostly at social events. Some characters drink to excess.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although this serious period drama stars Keira Knightley, it's not all that likely to appeal to teens since it explores the inner workings of a very flawed marriage -- one that's marred by infidelity and disloyalty and complicated by a menage a trois. There's an upsetting scene in which a man forces himself on a woman, as well as some nudity and passionate embracing. Also expect plenty of gambling and drinking, mostly at joyous events though sometimes during times of despair. At one point, a main character imbibes so much that she upends a chandelier and accidentally sets fire to her wig. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Pretty to look at but painful to contemplate, a female royal's life in the 18th century was far from enviable, as this visually splendid movie makes plain. Georgiana's anguished circumstances are highlighted by the perfection of all that surrounds her: her sumptuously decorated homes, her gardens, her jewels, her dresses and tresses. She has everything but love. But the movie, based on Amanda Foreman's biography of Georgiana Cavendish (nee Spencer, an ancestor of none other than Princess Diana, who herself suffered a lackluster marriage), is much more than the tale of a loveless coupling. It asks an important question: How far will a woman go for her children?
Lushly photographed and costumed, THE DUCHESS won't disappoint period-movie fans. But it probably won't stick with them for very long after the credits roll, either. There's a certain superficiality in the storytelling; the history is too light and glossy, and the movie would have been far more enjoyable if it had more heft. (For instance, Georgiana forgives her friend unbelievably quickly; was it really that easy?) Knightley is splendid in the film's peaks -- watch her flirt with her entourage and command a table full of gamblers. But when it hits the valleys (and there are quite a few of them), her agony is hollow, more acting than feeling. Fiennes rules, however: William is reprehensibly cold yet aching for connection. Somehow, he's not stripped of humanity -- even though he sometimes acts like it.
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Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate