Movies are fundamentally a form of storytelling. Sometimes they tell stories about things I’ve never heard before. In the case of The Duke, I’ve never heard about this story before. So I went into this very British film with pessimistic optimism. Some of these true stories aren’t that good and don’t deserve a film about them. This one was a good story that interested me, though.
Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent, Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor for Iris) is a family man in Newcastle, England. He struggles with making a living and keeping a steady job. His wife Dorothy (Helen Mirren, Academy Award Winner for The Queen) is a maid for a well-to-do family. She always harps on her husband to do what a man is supposed to do: take care of his family. They have a couple of sons as well, one stays with them, and the other doesn’t. They both are trying to earn the trust and love of their parents.
This film teamed up two of the biggest British stars in Hollywood. Jim Broadbent has been in a Harry Potter film, The Half-Blood Prince, a huge musical, Moulin Rouge, and a big sweeping period piece from Martin Scorsese, Gangs of New York. His career has been vast and varied over the decades. The same goes for Helen Mirren. She has been in the Fast and Furious franchise and acted opposite Ryan Reynolds, Bruce Willis, and Sir Ian McKellan. Together these two thespians of the big screen have done it all. It was nice to see them going tête-à-tête in The Duke, playing husband and wife.
The Duke is also a courtroom film as well as a family drama and a heist film. It has a lot going on in it. The courtroom scenes are pretty funny, and Broadbent gets to flex his comedic talents quite a bit in these scenes. His lawyer is played by Matthew Goode (The King’s Man). He was a pleasant surprise for me because I look forward to seeing him in anything he does. He’s a pretty good barrister, as they are called in Great Britain. He waits for the right moment to do his work in court.
As a whole, The Duke was an enjoyable film. It had plenty of dramatic moments where heavyweights Broadbent and Mirren got to spar with each other and shine on screen. The courtroom scenes were funny and kept the film light. The MacGuffin of the painting worked in the overall context of the film for me. It resonated with me on an unexpected level, making this a pleasant surprise of a film.
3 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman/EIC disappointment media