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Typical Portman period score, with a couple of much-needed twists
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Lakeshore Records; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
Keira Knightley's phase of seemingly being able to do no wrong came to an abrupt end in The Duchess, a wooden and awkward film about the 18th century Duchess of Devonshire, whose extravagant lifestyle ought to have made for a decent film. Unfortunately Knightley herself appears completely out of her depth and even a typically classy performance from Ralph Fiennes doesn't save things. Making another desperate bid to avoid being typecast, composer Rachel Portman is on board her 14,000th female-based English period drama.
Her score begins exactly as you would expect, with the very familiar, bouncy, summery opening theme making me reach back to previous Portman reviews for me to copy and paste (if she can just copy and paste the music, I figure I may as well copy and paste the review); but after that there is more of an edge to the music, which is more than welcome. One couldn't go as far as to describe it as "dark" - but it's not quite so bright as usual, and it's good to hear Portman doing something slightly different.
"Gee and Grey Make Love" has a real intensity to it which is most impressive; it reminds me in approach of John Barry's love music from The Scarlet Letter, passion coming to the fore but not through the usual romantic style of the composer. This is followed by the best presentation of the main theme (in "Gee and Grey Together in Bath") with an exquisite violin solo. The flip side is in the dramatic "Rape", in which the composer stirs up a surprisingly dense, awkward atmosphere. The Duchess is a decent Portman score - even at 42 minutes long (including ten minutes of Beethoven and Haydn), it feels rather repetitive, but as with most of her scores it makes a pleasant album. Fans of the composer will want to rush out because this is very much more of the same sort of thing which makes her so popular amongst certain people.