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dir Saul Dibb
scr Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen, Saul Dibb
with Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell, Charlotte Rampling, Simon McBurney, Aidan McArdle, Andrew Armour, Richard McCabe, Angus McEwan, Georgia King, Bruce Mackinnon
release UK 5.Sep.08, US 19.Sep.08
08/UK Pathe 1h50
Hair today: Knightley
TORONTO FILM FEST
HAYLEY AND SAUL
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Filmed with an intriguingly dark opulence, this true 18th century story has riveting parallels with much more recent British royal family history. It's also an entertaining, emotional drama.
In 1774, Georgiana (Knightley) is still in her teens when her mother, Lady Spencer (Rampling), arranges her marriage to the frightfully wealthy Duke of Devonshire (Fiennes). It isn't exactly a romantic union, but Georgiana tries to fulfil her duty to produce an heir. Two daughters later, trouble is brewing. First the Duke starts an affair with Georgiana's close friend Bess (Atwell), who lives with them in their house. Then Georgiana is reunited with a childhood friend (Cooper) who has grown into a politician destined to be Prime Minister. And their romance causes even more trouble.
Director-cowriter Dibb skilfully brings the period to life, loading scenes with gutsy emotion and brittle interaction that draws us into the story. This probing tone gives the events a strong emotional resonance that, without being too obvious about it, reveals evocative echoes of the Charles-Diana story, right down to sketch-artist paparazzi. Although with a lot more corsets and wigs. And the characters are vivid and engaging.
Knightley has several terrific scenes as the tart, outspoken woman who's too smart and too much for the genteel aristocracy. She's the life and soul of the scene, a fashion plate who uses her public persona to help her friends. When her life takes a dark turn, Knightley slightly wobbles, letting us see the actress rather than the character. But there's no such weakness in Fiennes' mesmerising turn as the conflicted man who's so much a creation of his time that he can't begin to see that his wife might have a point when she challenges his double standards.
The supporting cast is also solid, most notably Atwell as the hapless mistress who wants to be a loyal friend, but can't. The script, meanwhile, is loaded with telling snippets of witty dialog plus some extremely harrowing sequences as Georgiana discovers the hard way that she can never be as free a spirit as she wants to be. Her decisions are so wrenching that they leave us almost as worn out as she is.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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