Director Saul Dibb's The Duchess, based on Amanda Foreman's biography of Georgiana Cavendish (1757-1806), Duchess of Devonshire, is an 18th century costume drama, and composer Rachel Portman naturally has come up with a string-filled score that references the Classical and Romantic styles of the time. But it's actually a 21st century adaptation of those styles, mixed with familiar movie underscoring, not slavish imitation of the music of the period, as the inclusions of a couple of tracks by near-contemporaries Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) and Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) demonstrate. Portman accompanies the action in cues with suggestive titles like "Gee and Grey Make Love" and "Rape," coming up with compelling themes set to supple rhythms. It's music that suits the film in the same way that the period costumes do, probably more colorfully and vibrantly than strict realism would allow.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann