"THE DUCHESS" has been released on blu-ray and dvd, from PARAMOUNT. Kiera Knightley stars as the real-life Geogiana Spencer in this "loosely" based drama about the 18th Century "Duchess," whose real-life political accomplishments and contributions could provide material for numerous films. Unfortunately, "THE DUCHESS" only skims the surface of her real-life history, choosing costume drama and "harlequin-like" romance over depth.
Married to the Fifth Duke of Devonshire, "William Cavandish," played extremely well by Ralph Fiennes, Georgina appears to have all that any woman of that time could want, except for real love and passion. The script never allows the film to achieve more depth than a "costume drama," with a script skimming the surface of any complex themes it crosses. While Fiennes brings enough power to surpass the caricature that his dialogue suggests, the rest of the great cast seldom manages to. At times, Knightley is terrific, but in numerous scenes, due to the script, she can't do anything but look like a deer stuck in the headlights. Somehow, against all odds, the spectacle of the production design, as well as the gifted actors, manage to make the film watchable, but it's certainly not memorable.
PARAMOUNT has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray and 16:9 enhanced dvd. Colors are solid in both formats, however, for large portions of the film, colors veer towards a subdued look, in spite of elaborate costumes and sets. In format comparisons of same scenes, there are moments wherein the blu-ray's resolution offers notably more detail than the dvd, allowing for the exquisite details of the layers of fabrics used, really impress the viewer with depth, absent on the dvd. However, there are plenty of scenes, where there's little difference, and even facial characteristics are soft. Both formats look ok, but never astounding. For every scene on blu-ray offering great depth, there are just as many wherein the image falls flat. "THE DUCHESS" isn't up there with the best of PARAMOUNT blu-ray releases.
PARAMOUNT has provided a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix for blu-ray and Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on dvd. It's a pretty dull mix on both formats, with separation focused on the front channels. Occasional ambient effects pop up sporadically, but discrete and bass effects are barely noticeable. Dialogue is always intelligible and free from distortion. The dynamic range is slightly better in the lossy mix, but there's not enough difference between the two to recommend one over the other, and that's disappointing, considering one mix is lossy!
The same extras, save "trailers," are included on both formats, but blu-ray offers these featurettes with "up-scaled" HD.