Keira in corsets … again

Keira Knightley as Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire.

Photo by Nick Wall

Ashley Goetz

Keira Knightley as “Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire”. Photo by Nick Wall

âÄúTHE DUCHESSâÄù STARRING: KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, RALPH FIENNES PLAYING AT: UPTOWN THEATRE Has Keira Knightley ever made a movie set in modern times? Conjure up an image of the actress and sheâÄôs always tied into a corset, swordfighting with pirates in overblown blockbusters or red-lipsticked and marcel-waved into a slinky green dress in war-era England. A quick sweep of the Internet Movie Database reveals that, indeed, Knightley wore trainers in 2002âÄôs âÄúBend it Like Beckham,âÄù but the majority of her films tend to stay within the confines of the past. Unsurprisingly, KnightleyâÄôs newest starring role is in âÄúThe Duchess,âÄù a film adaptation of the life of Duchess Georgiana of Devonshire, a real-life historical heroine who is a distant relative of the late Princess Diana. In the film adaptation of the bestselling biography, the late 18th-century Georgiana marries the much-older Duke (Ralph Fiennes âÄî the British pronounce that âÄúRafeâÄù) not for love, but for political reasons. She finds her preconceived notions to be false, fails to provide the Duke with a male heir after many heated years of their marriage and becomes disillusioned with courtly life. Though Georgiana is beloved by the people and passionate about womenâÄôs suffrage and other political issues, she lives a rather unfulfilled life, due to violent arguments with her distant husband, who actually resorts to raping his wife for the much-desired heir. Then things get even juicier. The Duke begins an affair with GeorgianaâÄôs best friend Bess âÄî what is this, âÄúDays of Our Lives?âÄù âÄúThe DuchessâÄù is smart, but itâÄôs soapy, too; plenty of sex, intrigue and backstabbing âÄî the kind that would be right at home on a midday skip-class soap opera. Georgiana herself embarks on quite the rendezvous with Earl Charles Grey , who is rumored to be the namesake of that beloved tea. In true Knightley tradition, Georgiana is a heroine full of vim and vigor, who spits fire with gleaming, snapping eyes and refuses to play the role of bird-in-a-gilded-cage. Knightley carries the film on her bony shoulders, though Fiennes is never, ever a weak link in any film he chooses. Although âÄúThe DuchessâÄù is a Knightley-flavored historical costume drama, she is given the opportunity to age with her character; she begins as a girl but, throughout the course of the film, becomes a strong-willed woman and a devoted mother. Knightley is a strong actress, if not an amazing one, deserving of the accolades sheâÄôs received. WeâÄôre just tired of seeing her breathlessly feisty in a corset and would like to see her try her hand at the present day. At its best, the movie is eye candy. The sex scenes, mainstay of any good period piece, are flatteringly candle-lit; the excesses are enviable in their glittery ornate goldenness. The Duchess was historically a fashion icon and clotheshorse in the vein of Marie Antoinette, and the costuming of the movie is brilliant âÄî lots of gigantic towering precipices of hair, plenty of heaving bosoms encased in lace-collar frames, and full, sweeping skirts. It just feels a bit like déjà vu, since âÄúThe DuchessâÄù and âÄúMarie AntoinetteâÄù are pretty interchangeable. âÄúThe DuchessâÄù presents a pleasing, if not altogether original or particularly important, costume drama. Bodice ripping? Political intrigue? Torrid affairs? WeâÄôve all been there before.