Updated: May 12, 2022
The Duke of Wellington gets an added level of fame by accidentally inspiring a new movie. Called The Duke, the lighthearted piece refers to a portrait stolen from Great Britain’s National Gallery. Following a “truth is stranger than fiction” motif, the real-life events from the 1960s go against cliches and expectations by focusing on non-glamorous characters who need no cleverly drawn out plan in order to steal one of the most valuable paintings in the world. Jim Broadbent stars as the accused thief, a Don Quixote kind of guy who spent decades discovering his fight for social justice involves windmills. Well-meaning and ineffective, he repeatedly frustrates his dowdy wife, a woman who wants nothing more than a calm, practical life. As played by Helen Mirren, she works her way around her husband’s foibles, blending both love and irritation. The actors’ on-screen skill and rapport guarantees high class for any project they make, and both fill their characters’ shoes with ease and comfort. Broadbent, who earned his Academy Award as the empathetic husband in the movie Iris, pulls off The Duke’s character in a whimsical manner, with a forthright approach reveals only good intentions. Meanwhile Mirren, cover girl for People magazine’s 2022 quote “Beautiful Issue,” proves perfectly willing to downplay that label by minimizing make up and wearing boring, unflattering clothes—none of which cover up a spine of steel. Adding to the switch from typical art heist movies, director Roger Mitchell focuses on relationships rather than the how-to of theft. A specialist in rom-coms like Notting Hill, Mitchell emphasizes the charm and naivete displayed by his real-life protagonist, who went against the grain of his era’s views about propriety. Attitudes and the theft’s ease come from a different time, which Mitchell emphasizes with music and editing styles including frequent use of a split screen. The overall feel proves cheery and enjoyable, a likeable nod to people with ideas worth sharing.