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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.86%
Worth A Look: 18.57%
Pretty Bad: 14.29%
Total Crap: 14.29%

6 reviews, 34 user ratings

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Marie Antoinette
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by Erik Childress

"Just How Bad WAS That Marriage To Spike Jonze?"
2 stars

If Sofia Coppola’s father, Francis, was inspired by the French New Wave cinema of the 60s, then she may have found inspiration in the musical New Wave of the 70s. The Coppola family by many accounts is cinematic royalty, producing a family tree of filmmakers and actors of each successive generation from Talia Shire to Nicolas Cage to Jason Schwartzman. Sense would have it that a young woman to blossom from this tree in the wake of intense scrutiny over her casting in The Godfather Part III would akin her to the teenage queen of France. Dancing to the tune of creating a spoiled rich girl before the en vogue of today, Coppola’s vision works for about an hour until it becomes as monotonous as hanging out with a gaggle of teenage shoppers who couldn’t care less about their history assignment.

Beginning with her long journey at the age of 14 to meet her once and future husband, Marie (Kirsten Dunst) in line with tradition, leaves behind all her Austrian possessions (including her dog) to become a member of the French monarchy. Louis XV (Rip Torn) hopes a healthy bosom for his grandson, Louis-Auguste (Jason Schwartzman), himself not much older than his arranged wife. Marie has trouble adjusting to the lavish attention that greets her every morning, dressing in front of what seems like more than a hundred ladies-in-waiting. “This is ridiculous,” she finally says to which Comtesse de Noailles (Judy Davis) replies, “This is Versailles.” Even more troubling is the overt lack of attention she receives in the bedroom from her husband.

Perhaps chambermaids and a woman in his room is not what Louis-Auguste needs. Where history has suggested inexperience or genital elevation dilemmas as the issue, the film implies that if the French had a three dollar bill, Louis-Auguste would be queerer. After years of denial and the tedium of a daily eat-sleep-repeat routine that suggests a caged pet rather than royalty, Marie decides to break out with her girlfriends and enjoy all the amenities at her disposal. Clothes, food, drink and giggles become Marie’s M.O. If the royal court is going to accuse her marriage of being a sham incapable of producing an heir, she may as well live it up while it lasts.

And while it does, Coppola’s film gets by suggesting the anachronistic approach of a spoiled celebrity. Accompanied by the music of Joy Division and The Cure embracing the fluorescent-colored lifestyle, Marie’s life is one of both sympathy and extravagance; the little girl lost in her teenage years with responsibility being the other person’s problem. The first hour documenting this rise and transition into the windfall she’s inherited is fascinating enough and so meticulously confident that we don’t even flinch as Bow Wow Wow’s eternally 80s anthem, “I Want Candy” blasts over Marie’s version of a shopping spree. Coppola’s perspective of Marie takes precisely the turn she doesn’t need, however, by becoming just another celebrity without the substance to justify the legend – in their own time or any other.

Anything that’s interesting about the downslope of Marie’s reign – or anything at all – is tossed aside in the second hour; numbed down to quick verses of her sexual affairs and the monarchy’s failings. Like a Malick film without the voiceover(s), Coppola goes out of her way to include as little dialogue as possible; an approach which could work if she hadn’t already blown her visual wad in the first half. The only surprise comes towards the end when we actually see the angry mob camped out in front of the castle after we’re almost certain Coppola was merely going to use canned protests on the soundtrack. How would Sofia’s version of Marie react to the various incidents which defined and destroyed her reputation? Isn’t rumor and innuendo the bedfellow of a teenage girl, particularly in lieu of getting some with her actual fellow? That’s how the “Affair of the Necklace” started – with stolen private notes. (Oh my GOD, Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac – do you know who that Rohan Cardinal is doing?) It’s never touched upon and barely is the anonymosity between Marie and Louis XV’s courtesan mistress, Madame du Barry (Asia Argento), who engaged in her own rumor campaign to discredit Marie with the King. Here, there’s only a snub and then a banishment.

If the route of such ancient history and facts is not in Coppola’s interest, then surely there would be the attempt in her acute modernization to steer Marie’s stardom to today’s celebrity culture. Widely known for her apparent statement during the country’s bread shortage to “let them eat cake”, the film attributes it as a misquote by her very tongue but makes no qualms to use anything but that famous line and then wash over the incident as something less substantial than a speed read of Page Six. Nor are politics on the brain as Coppola plays it more neutral than a Swiss car wash; neglecting to express any parallels to any inherited ruling class before their time. With so little action dictating their final years in Versailles other than the birth of her children, where is the growth of love from the people that would make her downfall all the more tragic; expressed solely in retreat and not the time of her beheading years later.

It goes without suggestion that Coppola’s version of Marie’s days is definitely not the one teachers will be assigning their students to see. It’s not a cheap-looking production by any means which brings to mind another type of vanity that allowed so much flash and pop on the screen with little through the looking glass to validate it. Sofia Coppola created the masterful Lost In Translation, which worked so succinctly in creating its mood and the muted loneliness of its characters (including a sexless marriage from the female viewpoint.) Marie Antoinette sets the tone but eventually fails the people within. Dunst’s performance never has any stretch to breathe and grow into anything but, suffice to say, a lesser version of Paris Hilton instead of a heightened Eva Peron or Princess Diana. Her big moment to recognize the gravitas of her people turning on her for the worst is diverted by playing nearly identically to the final scene of Dangerous Liaisons. Coppola is going to take some deserved heat this time around, but I’m hopeful that she’ll once again turn her attention to something smaller and more intimate. She’s already got the bread and for a subject like this, audiences should expect more than just cake.

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originally posted: 10/20/06 14:33:54
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User Comments

5/21/14 Joe Smaltz Dreary, drab, boreing, tedious, a poor girl in an arranged marrige with a gay guy.. 1 stars
3/07/11 brian It's like the Moulin Rouge redux without the humor. Unconventionality is not enough. 3 stars
6/12/10 art a geat big COSTUME PARTY! 1 stars
3/17/09 :/ bleh not that good. 2 stars
1/08/09 Mariah disappointing, i thought it was going to be way better. but kirsten dunst did a great job. 2 stars
9/26/08 Annie G Amazing costumes, but I couldn’t figure out why else anyone would watch! 2 stars
5/29/08 Matt Inappropriate music and a story which suddenly ends when in truth it is far from over. 3 stars
5/16/08 Karrie Millheim Good protrayl of Marie Antoinette, the only problem was the ending was stupid 4 stars
5/09/08 doug great movie, bad ending. left me with tons of questions 4 stars
4/02/08 superfriek OMG, this movie rocks 4 stars
6/11/07 kiara best movie sooooo good and the costumes and food look sooooo good 5 stars
5/22/07 Corky like spending two hours eating dry white bread 1 stars
5/09/07 David Pollastrini Kirsten Dunst is hot in this! 3 stars
4/24/07 fools♫gold Too OLD to reign; Sofia Coppola's Great Work twice accomplished. 5 stars
4/22/07 djacosta Embarassing piece of shit 1 stars
3/31/07 chris. hey look! they partied just like we party! 3 stars
2/28/07 Beau Good portrayal and cast! great directing from 'copola' and performance from 'kirsten dunst' 3 stars
1/24/07 Antoinette Forbes I think this Movie was very said 5 stars
1/12/07 Richard Brandt The most interesting part was Louis' ruinous investment in a foreign war... 3 stars
1/03/07 jazzman Poor try on remaking a modern Amadeus...What an ending!!! 1 stars
12/13/06 jdean62 Acting was great ...but it put me to sleep !!! I was disappointed... 3 stars
12/12/06 William Goss Looks great, but any novelty wears off within an hour, with dry costume drama persisting. 3 stars
11/11/06 Louise A sumptuous feast for the eyes, tinged with the frustration felt by the young queen. 4 stars
11/06/06 Aaron tranquilizing take on most exttravagant period in history 1 stars
10/31/06 justine not a hip adaptation as it's peddled to be but a tragic bore. 1 stars
10/31/06 mac its was great love it ! it could have been better 4 stars
10/29/06 anni it sux 1 stars
10/27/06 ken Glittering, gaudy, profoundly feminine, rather gayish, frevolous and completely pointless ! 2 stars
10/25/06 Misha Definitely not a history lesson, visually stunning, conveys period excesses very well 4 stars
10/23/06 Stacy Like L.I.T., this would be better if it utilized some sort of narrorator. I liked it, tho'. 3 stars
10/23/06 Lauren Different and bold, and for this alone it is difficult film to dismiss. Worth seeing. 4 stars
10/22/06 Riki As meandering as Lost in Translation, if you like that sort of thing 3 stars
10/21/06 Pritchett Sofia Coppola is as good a director as she is an actress. 1 stars
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  20-Oct-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Feb-2007



Directed by
  Sofia Coppola

Written by
  Sofia Coppola

  Kirsten Dunst
  Jason Schwartzman
  Judy Davis
  Rip Torn
  Rose Byrne
  Asia Argento

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