Despite its PG-13 rating, The Duchess pushes sexual themes to the extent the rating will allow.  While not explicit, there are scenes (whether passionate lovemaking, a quasi-lesbian moment, or a behind-closed-doors rape) that are definitely for adults only.  Though integral to plot and character development, most of the depictions (except the rape) attempt to titillate as well, reducing the material again to tawdry levels.  Director Dibb makes a great cake but he wants to eat it, too, and whenever he should resist taking a bite, he can’t.

This period soap ends as all typical sudsers do, which is to say it betrays any dramatic credibility it may have been going for by crafting a feel-good ending.  Duplicitous and evil characters suddenly reveal compassionate sides, reconciliations occur (even if limited and bittersweet), and the epilogue text describing what comes of these people is too neat-and-tidy, all set against an image of a joyous Georgiana playing with her kids. 

Even if the facts are true, the whole context plays as false.  For a movie that panders to women’s deep senses of anger and despair, to craft a warm closure is cheap.  And so despite the extravagance of style and effort on display throughout, “cheap” is exactly what The Duchess ends up being.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Wine and champagne is consumed, but nothing excessive.
  • Language/Profanity:  Almost none.  Offensive term of “sons born out of wedlock” is used.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Only one moment of brief nudity (from behind) occurs, but sexuality occurs throughout.  A cold, clinical wedding night scene occurs early on.  A woman helps Georgiana to discover that sex can be pleasurable, not just a duty.  Scenes of infidelity take place; the action and conduct is depicted but without nudity.  One pleasurable sexual encounter is heard behind closed doors, and at another time a rape is also heard behind closed doors.
  • Violence/Other:  Again, the aforementioned overheard rape.  Other than that, it’s mostly intense verbal abuse.

Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla.  He is also cohost of  the "Steelehouse Podcast,” along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture. 

To listen to the weekly podcast, please visit www.steelehouse.com or click here.  You can also subscribe to the "Steelehouse Podcast” through iTunes.