Keira Knightley shimmies herself into the most impressive corsets and hairpieces (seriously, the wigs should get second billing) in the lush and golden-hued The Duchess, directed by Saul Dibb. Based on the book Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman, the movie features Ms.
Knightley as 18th-century Duchess of Devonshire Georgiana Spencer, real-life “original It Girl.” Georgiana grows up in splendid English countryside privilege, and is married off by her mother (the still ravishing Charlotte Rampling) to the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes) when she is still a teen. But the Duke turns out to be rather cold and distant and seems to care
only about his dogs and his wife producing a male heir. Oh, and having sex with the household staff and Georgiana’s best friend! Georgiana focuses on being ravishing and glamorous, full of flirty fashions, fun and politics (she was a big supporter of the Whig Party), and inspires just about everyone but her husband to fall madly in love with her. Many twists and turns follow,
and there’s a lot of rather racy stuff in this one. It’s fairly obvious that this free-spirited woman—trapped by convention and tradition—is supposed to remind us of Princess Diana, the direct descendant of the Duchess of Devonshire. (We’re not sure how Prince Charles will feel about some of Mr. Fiennes’, uh, choices).
(Sept. 19, Paramount Vantage)
Burn After Reading
The Venice Film Festival opens Aug. 27 with Burn After Reading, the follow-up to Ethan and Joel Coen’s Academy Award-winning No Country for Old Men. This one appears to be much lighter in tone, a comedic thriller about what happens when a C.I.A. analyst (John Malkovich) loses a computer disc with all sorts of confidential information on it, and it ends up in the hands of Hardbodies Fitness workers Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand). Blackmail, intrigue and adultery follow. But we are especially excited to see Brad Pitt play dumb again. It’s been too long. Or maybe we just love Brad Pitt as an actor—has that become an acceptable thing to say yet? Of all the movies out this month, Burn After Reading looks like it would have been the most fun for a set visit: It also stars Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Richard Jenkins and J. K. Simmons. (Sept. 12, Focus Features)
Oh, what a journey The Women has endured to get to your local multiplex. Talks of a remake of the 1939 George Cukor classic, which starred Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Rosalind Russell (based on the Clare Boothe Luce 1936 stage play), have been swirling around Hollywood seemingly forever. At one point James L. Brooks was planning to direct, with Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan starring. But since 2001, Diane English (Murphy Brown) has been attached, and she’s assembled quite the cast: Ms. Ryan, Annette Benning, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler, Cloris Leachman, Candice Bergen (who gets the best line of the whole movie), Carrie Fisher and Debi Mazar. It will make Sex and the City seem downright masculine, as there is not even a drop of male blood in this one, just a lot of women who are best described by a word not often heard in polite society, outside of a kennel. (Sept. 12, Picturehouse)
We love the tag line to Ghost Town: “He sees dead people … and they annoy him.” Taking a page straight from the Swayze playbook, Ricky Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, D.D.S., a grouchy malcontent who “dies” for seven minutes and wakes up with the ability to communicate with ghosts. Except, since he was never a people person to begin with, this turnabout does nothing but irritate him. Greg Kinnear shows up in a tux, trying to convince Bertram to stop his wife (Téa Leoni) from marrying another man. If this looks to be like a retread of Ghost and All of Me (and its less successful spawn, Over Her Dead Body and Just Like Heaven), we don’t care because we love us some Ricky Gervais!
(Sept. 19, DreamWorks/Paramount)
There was an awful lot of buzz at this year’s Sundance over Choke, written and directed by actor Clark Gregg, and it went on to win the Special Jury Prize. The film stars dance-happy Sam Rockwell as Victor Mancini, a sex-addicted con man and medical school dropout. Victor’s mother (Anjelica Houston) is dealing with some kind of dementia, and Victor keeps her in a private and pricey hospital by working as a historical reenactor at a Colonial Williamsburg theme park (read: awesome). The title comes from the fact that at night, Victor scams wealthy restaurant patrons by making himself choke in order to ingratiate himself with those who “save” him. Got all that? It’s from the fertile and terrifying mind of Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), who wrote the book.
(Sept. 26, Fox Searchlight)