Opening 2 Nov 2006
Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Virgin Suicides) directs Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman) in this portrayal of the possibly misunderstood Austrian princess who became Dauphine of France at the age of 14. The film is based on Antonia Fraser's biography Marie Antoinette:The Journey. While it's impossible to complain about the exquisite details of the costumes, sets and extravagant accessories, it is very easy to complain about virtually everything else in this movie. The overbearing and irritating music (an erratic mixture of grunge, badly sung pop, 18 th century period, and a lost piano solo somewhere between jazz and I'm not sure what) is the first thing to hit the viewer/listener. Next comes the most boring set of opening credits I've seen in a long time; until Kirsten Dunst's name appeared I thought the wrong movie was being projected. As for the story, how it unfolds and is presented, it brought to mind the most unimaginative history lesson you could want to sit through. A lot of facts, hammered home in case you missed the point: I think we saw Louis and Marie Antoinette get into bed and go to sleep without consummating their marriage at least a dozen times. The same for the number of times we see Louis go hunting. The extensive collection of Marie's shoes might have been less boring, but the 25 or so pairs flash by so quickly there is hardly a chance to appreciate them!
I guess the intention was to portray Marie Antoinette as a victim of circumstance. At a fairly young age, she has to leave her beloved Austria and, for the good of political alliance, marry the heir to the French throne. Her timid husband has obviously not been told anything about the birds and the bees (in spite of the obviously promiscuous society he lives in), and Marie Antoinette not only has to suffer the disdain of the court, but also her mother's letters implying it's all the young girl's fault: with her beauty and youth she should, after all, be able to charm her own husband. It takes seven years and some friendly advice from Marie Antoinette's brother for Louis to finally to get the point. We sigh with relief when the couple finally produces a daughter. There is joy in the court, and harmony seems to embrace family life; but for some unexplained reason Marie Antoinette goes off to live at the Petit Trianon and has an affair. It is totally unclear if the son born later – and cheerfully acknowledged as the new 'Dauphin de France' – is actually Louis's son. Then there was a third child... but it died. And so it continues as the country falls bankrupt from financing the extravagant court life and the American war. Finally, the hungry populace revolts, storms the Bastille, and the Royal family is taken away in the middle of the night. (Osanna Vaughn)