The Duke - B-
Rated R, 96 minutes
The sweet, charming dramedy "The Duke" is based on a true story of the theft of a famous Goya painting from the National Gallery in London in the 1960's. The final film of director Roger Michell of "Notting Hill" fame, there's not much to the story, but it's made better by the appealing performances of the Oscar-winning leads.
In 1961, Kempton Bunton (Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent), a 60-year old taxi driver, stole Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. Kempton sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting on condition that the government invested more in care for the elderly as he had long campaigned for pensioners to receive free television.
"The Duke" is an uplifting, worthy tale to be told, though unfortunate it was delayed in getting to the screen (it's been sitting on the shelf for two years due to the pandemic), and that its director Michell, who died in September 2021, didn't get a chance to see its release. The script from Clive Coleman and Richard Bean is very modest and predictable, and the film runs a swift 96 minutes. However, the film provides an opportunity to pair Oscar-winners Broadbent (who you also know from the "Harry Potter" films) and Mirren together. Their amiable chemistry is the chief reason to see the film, and they're both perfectly cast as an old married couple who easily get on each other's nerves.
"The Imitation Game's" Matthew Goode is seen briefly as real-life barrister Jeremy Hutchinson, who presided over Bunton's trial, and if you know the real story, it was actually Bunton's son Jackie (played here by Fionn Whitehead) who later admitted to the crime, but Kempton who took credit to raise awareness of issues for the elderly in Britain. The story is an inspiring one, though Kempton would disappear into anonymity following his trial.
"The Duke" is fun, charming and worth your time to see Broadbent and Mirren. In theaters this weekend.