A review of “The Lady and the Duke” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for adult situations.  In French with English subtitles

Run Time: 2 hour, 9 minutes

 

 

A unique filming technique can’t compensate for this period drama’s extensive running time and tedious period excesses.

High melodrama is the order of the day for beautiful royalist Grace Elliott (Lucy Russell), a Scottish gentlewoman who has forsaken her mother country to live in peril in Revolutionary France.  A series of high-powered love affairs (the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Orleans) place Grace squarely in the eye of the storm, where the tiniest misstep could land her pretty little head in a basket.

Inspired by Elliott’s real life 18th century memoirs, “Lady” embraces its journalistic quality, reeling off key historical dates like an adolescent’s diary.  The Federation Rally of 1790, The September Massacres, and the Execution of King Louis XVI unspool to stagy effect, set against a trompe l’oeil background of faithful period paintings that compliment the theatrical panache. The process of live action against showy faux backdrops is kitschy (and initially catchy), but the novelty wears thin rather quickly.

The small saving grace is the film’s enthusiasm for its campy disposition.  Over-the-top dialogue partners well with the flourishing horrors.  “My scorn has turned to rightful loathing!” and “France? This ragbag of power hungry scoundrels?” vie for best of show.

Contemporary French politics swaddled in velvet and brocade.  Good intentions, but “Lady” is a well-executed failure.