The Duke Review: Broadbent & Mirren Excel In Stylish, Heartwarming Dramedy

Jim Broadbent in The Duke

The story of an older man who steals a painting in an effort to raise awareness about a situation involving television licensing might sound rather silly, and Michell wisely leans into the humor of it all. The Duke has lively energy from its opening minutes, with George Fenton’s swing score supporting the action. Michell occasionally uses split-screens and classic-looking footage for fun effect. The Duke is further aided by Bean and Coleman’s screenplay, which highlights Kempton’s serious nature without becoming overly preachy. He’s a man who sticks to his guns and the film shows exactly why he deserves the admiration of the rest of the world. Overall, the film is a fast-paced affair with its running time of around 90 minutes, although it does slow down somewhat once the painting has been stolen and Kempton is working on his next steps forward. Michell facilitates the pacing and Bean and Coleman add solid character work. Still, The Duke is at its best when it focuses on the major events of this experience.

Even with his lighthearted approach, however, The Duke still finds room for the true heart. Kempton and Dorothy lost a daughter years before the film began, and while their grief never overwhelms the story, it is present. Bean and Coleman describe the two sides of grief here: Dorothy’s version of keeping everything private and tightly locked away, and Kempton’s version of interacting with her through art. Through their points of view, The Duke cleverly confronts a difficult subject that a lot of people can probably sympathize with. This added layer gives more depth to Kempton’s story and shows that he is much more than a strangely passionate man who would use a famous work of art as a “ransom”.

Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren in The Duke

As Kempton, Broadbent nails both his humor and fair nature. With the former, Broadbent’s comedic timing is well displayed during The Dukelater, the court scenes, making both the audience and the stunned patrons of the courthouse laugh. It makes Kempton someone to support, although some might question his methods. Mirren is reliably excellent as the emotionally suppressed Dorothy; when she thaws out, or even lets loose her own grief, she tugs at the heartstrings. The Duke is primarily a showcase for these two acting vets, though Dunkirk The Whitehead star does well as the loyal but somewhat lost Jackie.

The real-life stories brought to the movies are often of the heaviest, hard-hitting variety. Still, The Duke more than justifies its existence by its thoughtful illumination of a strange, but ultimately rather vital true tale. There’s humor and emotion in equal measure, and each cast member gives a wonderfully authentic performance. As this is unfortunately Michell’s last feature film, there is a slight undercurrent of melancholy here. At the same time, Michell’s direction for this film is something to be celebrated, and I hope it will be. Anyone looking for an entertaining story about a really good person would be smart to check it out. The Duke.

The Duke is playing now in select theaters. It is 96 minutes long and rated R for language and brief sexuality.

Our assessment:

3.5 out of 5 (very good)


More information about The Duke Review: Broadbent & Mirren Excel In Stylish, Heartwarming Dramedy

Jim Broadbent in The Duke
The story of an older man stealing a painting with an eye on raising awareness for a situation involving television licenses might seem rather silly, and Michell wisely leans into the humor of it all. The Duke has a sprightly energy from its very first minutes, with George Fenton’s swinging score buoying the action. Michell occasionally employs split-screens and classic-looking footage to fun effect. The Duke is further aided by Bean and Coleman’s screenplay, which highlights Kempton’s earnest nature without getting too sanctimonious. This is a man who sticks to his guns and the film shows exactly why he deserves admiration from the rest of the world. Overall, the movie is a quick affair with its roughly 90-minute runtime, though it does slow somewhat once the painting has been stolen and Kempton is working out his next moves forward. Michell eases the pacing and Bean and Coleman add in some solid character work. Still, The Duke is at its best when it is focusing on the major events of this experience.
Even with its lighthearted approach, though, The Duke still finds space for real heart. Kempton and Dorothy lost a daughter years before the film begins, and while their grief never overwhelms the story, it is present. Bean and Coleman depict two sides of grieving here: Dorothy’s version, which is to keep everything private and tightly locked up, and Kempton’s, which is to interact with it via art. Through their perspectives, The Duke smartly confronts a difficult topic that many people can likely empathize with. This extra layer gives Kempton’s story more depth and shows he’s far more than a strangely passionate man who would use a famous art piece for “ransom.”

Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren in The Duke
As Kempton, Broadbent nails both his humor and his righteous nature. With the former, Broadbent’s comedic timing is on fine display during The Duke‘s later court scenes, pulling laughs from both the audience and the stunned courthouse patrons. He makes Kempton someone to root for, even if some might question his methods. Mirren is reliably excellent as the emotionally repressed Dorothy; when she thaws, or even lets her own grief loose, she tugs at heartstrings. The Duke is mainly a showcase for these two acting vets, though Dunkirk star Whitehead does well as the loyal, yet somewhat lost Jackie.
Real life stories brought to film are often of the heavier, more impactful variety. Still, The Duke more than justifies its existence through its thoughtful illumination of an odd, but ultimately rather vital true tale. There is humor and emotion in equal measure, and each member of the cast gives a wonderfully authentic performance. As this is sadly Michell’s last feature film, there is a slight undercurrent of melancholy here. At the same time, Michell’s direction for this movie is something to be celebrated, and hopefully it will be. Anyone looking for an entertaining story about a genuinely good person would be smart in checking out The Duke.

The Duke is now playing in select theaters. It is 96 minutes long and rated R for language and brief sexuality.

Our Rating:
3.5 out of 5 (Very Good)

#Duke #Review #Broadbent #Mirren #Excel #Stylish #Heartwarming #Dramedy


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