It's easy to joke about Knightley's fondness for period dramas. But we shouldn't underestimate her ability to channel the historic and modern into one compelling figure -- or her grasp of the power of dress-up to free performance.
Thanks to Fiennes, we come to understand the enigmatic duke as the immovable object deeply perplexed at having to contend with the unstoppable force that is his wife. It is a quietly complex performance almost beyond words.
[The filmmakers] have accomplished their goal of making the unorthodox life of the late-18th-century noblewoman Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire, relevant to a 21st-century audience of moviegoers.
For all its luscious period trappings and Keira Knightley's spirited take on the title role, Saul Dibb's handsome biopic reveals little about how Georgiana Spencer Cavendish became one of 18th-century London's most celebrated and influential aristocrats.