If I were Saul Dibb, director of The Duchess (Paramount, 9.19), I would have changed my name the day I decided to become a filmmaker. Saul Dibb could be an architect, a restaurant owner, a tailor, a stockbroker, the owner of a roofing company, a garment-district clothier, a cab driver or even a stage director, but something doesn’t feel quite right about a guy with that name delivering an upscale period piece aimed at the ladies. It seems to somehow diminish that sexy, elegant 18th Century vibe that films of this sort are supposed to deliver.
No comment on the film itself, mind — I’m just saying that “Dibb” rhymes with “bib,” “fib” and “squib.” I wouldn’t want to see a Barry Lyndon-era romance directed by Maury Schlotnik, Sidney Schwartz, Lenny Bruce or Mort Sahl either.
A guy in the business (not a journalist) recently caught up with The Duchess and called it “a commercially serviceable but cinematically unremarkable piece of faux lit-chick (chicklit?) fare, with all possible Diana/Charles analogies brought to the fore and spelled out in boldface.
“Keira Knightley acquits herself capably, though it’s not much of a stretch or progression following on from her strong performance in Atonement. Those who enjoyed Jason Schwartzman‘s performance as an Emotionally Bored Royal With One Expression (in Sofia Coppola‘s Marie Antoinette) will be happy to know that Duchess costar Ralph Fiennes has taken note and upped him, though at least has the benefit of adding Sexual Predator to the character arc. (Plus the dude’s in shape. Men’s Health, call his agent.)
“Production values are sumptuous, but the narrative is mind-numbingly predictable. You’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the film. The supporting perfs are okay. It’s always great to see Charlotte Rampling, but Dominic Cooper has a serious case of the David Beckhams. Looks great, and then he opens his mouth.
“It’ll make money. Women and girls will probably dig it. But anyone who has the film on their Oscar charts needs to arrange a revision, aside, perhaps, for the pretty costumes.”