Well, I thought I wouldn't be able to ever enjoy a Keira Knightley film. It's the lips I think. The pouting, it just gets to me. She'd ruined the movie about Dylan Thomas for me. The Pirates of Caribbean never worked for me. Atonement was alright but she just wasn't that great in it and I preferred the book. As usual.
Then, I allowed myself to be persuaded to see the Duchess against my better instincts. I'm happy to see virtually any movie, I just love films, in fact, the only film I've ever walked out of was Frances, just before the lobotomy scene. Even as a 12-year-old I sat through the coathanger-in-vagina scene in Sybil. Obviously not scarred at all by that memory.
My mum made me see it with her. I went in, thinking it might just be awful.
BUT I LOVED IT. And, I was surprised, she was good in it. The lips were not at all distracting for some reason. She was compelling. Of course, the character was compelling really. I left the cinema and it stayed with me, into the next day, and even the next. I kept thinking about her, and the story, and her hair.
I'd already bought the book that the movie is based on, and being a bit of a fusty old academic, I am just adoring the adherence to solid research, but also the author - Amanda Foreman - writes well. Oh, she does. So now, each night, I leave my body in the comfortable bed, and I wing my mind to Olde England, where the Duchess of Devonshire holds court at parties and balls, I read her letters to her mother, and her mother's letters to her, I read snippets of articles from newspapers. She even wrote a book called The Sylph, a type of roman-a-clef that was an admittedly thinly-veiled account of her life, married and social. I want to buy this book.
Did you know the Duchess was Princess Diana's great, great, great, great-aunt, or somesuch? I couldn't count the family tree generations properly, but she is from the Spencer family and her childhood home was Althorp (same as Diana's).
They had so many life parallels, these two women. Both married older men who were repressed or remote, witholding and cold. Both the husbands had mistresses when they got married, and continued on with them. Both the women became famous/notorious for their fashion leadership and innovation. And both made waves and impressions on society with their ventures into areas where young ladies of their society did not "venture" - for the Duchess it was politics and her support for the Whigs, for the Princess it was holding AIDS sufferers hands, and later landmines. Both became more famous and popular than their husbands, who were the original title holders. And both (possibly) had illegitimate children?
So now I go to the Duchess. It's wonderful. As is she.
And did I mention the hair?
"These hairstyles were labor-intensive and required cushions and wool, pomatum and powder, and an array of decorations. They were uncomfortable, they attracted insects and mice, and they could be fire hazards. "