Certainly her first two children, both girls, are a nuisance and a bother, as is his girl-child by a maid who died, who then came to live with them. Though cold and cruel to his wife, the Duke can actually manage love, but only to his mistress, Lady Spencer (Charlotte Rampling), who also moves in with her three sons because the many servants take care of everything, you know.
Georgiana tries to rebel by taking her own lover, Charles Gray, who would later become Prime Minister, but alas, their liaison is doomed, because the duke makes her choose between her lover and her children. (These days, it’s the women who can have it both ways, and that makes us all liberated?) So Georgiana decides which tragedy she’ll choose, by staying with her children in a loveless marriage, and after she’s dead the duke marries his mistress, anyway, but presumably that doesn’t affect the inheritance situation for the “legitimate” heir.
There is a precedent of sorts. Sara, after all, made sure that her maid Hagar’s son, Ishmael, wouldn’t be around to compromise her son Isaac’s inheritance rights by making her husband run them both out of the house (Genesis 21). And Abraham, after all, is the patriarch of no less than three world religions. Interesting that in “The Duchess,” love is an immature impulse to be assiduously ignored whenever possible, because it’s so unpredictable, inconvenient, and embarrassing. Interesting also that the “disturbance in The Colonies” (which we prefer to call the American Revolution), contemporary with this story, isn’t even mentioned. As if that was somehow something, well, unpredictable, inconvenient, and embarrassing.
“The Women” has no dukes, only duchesses. Mary Haines (Meg Ryan) is a woman of means in New York, who hears from the lady who does her nails at Saks that Mary’s husband is having an affair with the perfume girl (Eva Mendes). We never actually see the philanderer, we only hear about him, castigated by Mary’s many society matron friends, who seem to have nothing better to do. Let’s see, backbiting, betrayal, spreading unsubstantiated rumor — and these are her friends? Yes, it’s full of emotional drama, and the whole point is the personal development of the characters, as you’d expect in any “chick flick,” but this one is beyond feminist; the men are literally completely absent.
As if to compensate, there aren’t any women in “Tropic Thunder,” just a bunch of guys making a war movie — a bad one — about Vietnam, and suddenly it turns real, except they don’t even know it, and what’s supposed to be farcical is actually merely ridiculous. Hollywood is hardly ever charming while trying to spoof itself. It just comes out mean and shallow, leaving the viewers, unable to suspend disbelief, wondering which inside jokes they’re not getting.
At least in “Righteous Kill,” there are no bad jokes. Just no jokes at all. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro playing two grizzled old detectives on the NYPD sounds like self-caricature gone to seed, and it is. But they’re still “dukes” of the fine art of filling up the screen, even when they’re just hamming it up in an unlikely plot about a serial killer who seems to only take care of “scum” escaping the justice system. And it takes them all a very long time to suspect an angry cop? Carla Gugino, sexy police colleague, brightens up this dark, tired ode to world-weariness by somehow being intelligent, kinky, and cheerful, all at the same time.
“Igor” is an animated feature about a duke making his own duchess, and also all about the pop psychology of 1) just because someone is ugly on the outside doesn’t mean they’re not beautiful on the inside; 2) people who steal your work still can’t steal who you are; 3) you can control the anger if you choose to, but accepting help is OK. Yeah, and the animation is ordinary, too.
Questions For Discussion:
1) What are the advantages and disadvantages of arranged marriages?
2) Can an affair ever be emotionally fulfilling? Socially useful? The easiest of bad choices?
3) Can a “righteous kill” ever be justified? In law enforcement? In war?
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor of Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.