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THE DUKE (2022)

Movie Review

Release Date: 05/06/22 (Theatrically)
Genre: Biography/Comedy/Drama

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics


"In 1961, Kempton Bunton, a 60 year old taxi driver, steals Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London."


The Duke introduces us to a family in England in the 1960’s. Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent) and his wife Dorothy (Helen Mirren) live in a modest house and struggle to make ends meet. They have two sons Jackie (Finn Whitehead) who still lives at home and Kenny Bunton (Jack Bandeira) who swings in and out of the house as it suits him. Kempton is an idealist and spends much of his time on noble crusades that end poorly. He gets fired from his job as a taxi driver for giving a wounded veteran rides for free. His next job at a bakery ends the same when he sticks up for an immigrant worker who faces discrimination from the manager. Kempton is familiar with the cops as well. He gets hauled to jail when he refuses to pay the television licensing tax. He argues that he shouldn’t have to pay the tax because he took out the coil that would allow him to receive the BBC.


His stance is clear, if he isn’t receiving the service then he shouldn’t have to pay. Kempton is a pure-hearted man, fighting for the common man and calling out unfairness when he sees it. His wife Dorothy struggles to understand why he can’t hold down a job and is frustrated when he avoids work in favor of getting folks to sign his petition against the television licensing rules. For her part, Dorothy cleans houses and is the pragmatic foil for her husband’s idealistic fancies. What seems to be a normal story about a struggling family takes a wild turn when Kempton steals Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. His son helps him create a false back in a wardrobe to hide the painting and Kempton embarks on another worthy crusade – getting free television licenses for the elderly by holding the painting hostage. He of course is caught and goes to trial where a few twists might surprise viewers.


The Duke is a wonderfully acted movie with Broadbent and Mirren sharing impeccable chemistry. Broadbent fully commits to the role and showcases Kempton’s quirks and faults perfectly. Broadbent’s acting makes it easy to understand Dorothy’s equal parts frustration and love for her husband. Finn Whitehead holds his own and adds a touch of endearing familial love that will warm your heart. To top it off, this is director Roger Mitchell’s last film as he sadly passed away in 2021.


While The Duke is not quite as good as say Notting Hill (1999), it is still a wonderful finale to Mitchell’s storied career. The Duke is a fun and thoroughly entertaining movie that will leave you believing in the goodness of humanity. What a good reminder for us all and a worthy message for Mitchell to leave behind.

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