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Movie Review: Marie Antoinette (2006) 
31st-Dec-2006 09:20 pm
Andy Paris
Don't judge me! Lost in Translation was a great movie!

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne, Asia Argento, Molly Shannon

Directed by: Sofia Coppola

I was actually in Versailles this summer, touring the grounds where this movie takes place. So watching Sofia Coppola's lush representation of the court of Louis the XVI offered a little more for me, as I got to see the places I toured this summer as they were originally presented. Unfortunately, touring Versailles was kinda boring for me, as I have little interest in the opulence and wealth of royalty. The stale and boring lives of monarchy hold no interest to me, so walking through the palace while my audio guide explained where a certain candlestick or whatever came from nearly put me to sleep.

Fortunately, Coppola's movie was supposed to be a slick re-imaging of the queen and her court, complete with an American Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) and a post-punk soundtrack. It upset the Marie Antoinette historical society with its depiction, and was reviled by the French. Hey, if the French don't like it, then it couldn't be too bad, right?

Unless, of course, I just didn't like it for different reasons than the French or stuffy historians. Their issues were modernisation and inaccuracies. Mine were that the movie was BOOOOOOOOORRRRing. About as interesting as walking around the palace listening to an audio guide explain where a certain candlestick or whatever came from. It started out pretty cool, with Gang of Four playing with Sex Pistols-type writing delivering the credits. Then the movie started, and never again showed the edge of the credits sequence, even when shoe-horning The Strokes into a montage.

You wouldn't expect a movie that was controversial for supposed pop art interpretations of history to be so bloodless, but it was. Coppola may as well have dropped the scant pop trappings and American actors, and just made some Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant Ivory piece, because she turned out a movie that was about that thrilling. Admittedly, I'm not the audience for a period-piece costume drama, but this movie wasn't billed as such, and I have been known to be won over by a movie about a queen, when done right.

Not that the movie is all bad. It really is a gorgeous-looking picture, filled with all the opulent beauty one would expect. The art and costume departments of the film really shone with this effort, filling the screen with wonderful things to look at. Coppola is also really good at finding the absurdity of courtly life and presenting it without resorting to winking at the camera. Unfortunately, the biggest thing she seems to be saying about the life of privilege that Marie Antoinette led is that it is really boring. Which is probably accurate, but probably not the sense you want to be projecting to a movie audience for two hours. If that was all Coppola wanted to say, that this whole affair is really boring, then mission accomplished!


Related Reviews:
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Queen, The (2006)
3rd-Jan-2007 08:26 pm (UTC)
I love it that people are always surprised that Sophia Coppola's films are boring.

Announcement: Sophia Coppola's films are boring.

I actually really love her movies, but you can't watch them if you want a plot.

Fun fact: I so rarely go to the movies anymore that this was the last film I saw.
3rd-Jan-2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
Well in this case, I was surprised that this particular movie was boring in this particular way. I was expecting a more inventive movie with more to say, a fresh perspective on Marie Antoinette that would make the lack of plot less meaningful.

Understand, movies need not be plot-heavy to be interesting (like, for instance, Lost in Translation). Character studies can be very interesting. This was not a character study, it was an exercise in set decoration.

Moreover, even if all of Sofia Coppola's movies are boring (and I'd argue that this is not true, Lost in Translation, while quiet, was not boring), it doesn't make it an invalid criticism of any particular film. Movies shouldn't be boring, so that isn't an acceptable cinematic style.
3rd-Jan-2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
Many people would argue that Lost In Translation is quite boring.

And I should have used the word boring-her movies are more slow and quiet. Marie Antoinette was just a movie about a girl. I loved it, but I totally see why most people wouldn't. It's just like how I can't see enjoying Virgin Suicides without reading the book. Her movies are beautiful, but not for everyone.
3rd-Jan-2007 10:32 pm (UTC)
Those people would be wrong.

A problem I had with the movie, which perhaps I should've elaborated on more in the review (but, hey, if people ever want to get into it more, that's what the comments are for!) is that I never got much sense of who Coppola's Marie Antoinette was, other than a bored monarch trapped in her station (even that theme wasn't all that explored, it was just plainly obvious). If she wanted to make a movie that was really about the heart and mind of Antoinette, then it should've felt more personal and worried less about hitting the historical highlights of France at the time.

We're never given a sense of Antoinette's voice, and rarely even get to hear what she's thinking about things. Instead, we get to see her in cool costumes and in lavish parties. It seemed that she had a bit of a sense of duty to her family, but also didn't seem all that desperate to make things happen with Louis. It seemed like maybe she was spending a lot of money to fill a void, but she never really gets into it. Why did she go bow in front of the angry mob in the end? What did she hope to accomplish? How did she feel about the Swedish soldier? About Louis? About France? For a movie that had all the time in the world to spend developing character, this one never gave me a sense of who that character was.
3rd-Jan-2007 10:40 pm (UTC)
Marie Antoinette was a young girl who wasn't ready for the responsibility she was given. She spent so much time partying and spending when she should have been paying more attention to her country. She was full of innocence and was misunderstood. She should have never been put in the position she was in and I think the movie reflected all of this very nicely.

If that wasn't what you got from the film that's fine, but that's what I took from it. Just like some people feel that Translation was boring.
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