Thursday, March 01, 2007

Royal Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Marie Antoinette (the movie)


Yesterday I watched Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette".

Hmmm, what to make of this odd film that purports to tell the story of France's doomed Queen, using a soundtrack of early 80's New Romantic tunes?

Kirsten Dunst plays Marie as a royal innocent. Happily betrothed to King Louis XVI (Jason Shwartzman), Marie seemingly relished the fact that her mother, Marie Teresa (played splendidly by Marianne Faithful) arranged a marriage for her at the age of 14, and sent her from her homeland of Austria into the arms of the decent, but benign boy king.

It's obvious that Coppola wanted to present Marie as child-like. For instance, when she first meets her advisor, the stiff, protocol-by-the-book, Comtesse de Noailles (Judy Davis), Young Marie Antoinette hugs her like a long lost friend, leaving the Comtesse somewhat flustered (btw, Davis,as always, is flawless in her role).

Upon her arrival at Versailles it is made obvious that the young queen to be, not only is enamored of the glamours life that is to be hers, she craves it.

As the movie continues we watch as Marie becomes more and more a party girl, and less of a concerned matriarch of her country. It's not that she's vindictive or evil, she's just a fun loving air-head -- or so Coppola would have us think.

The infamous, "Let them eat cake" line so often attributed to Marie is shown here as a mean-spirited rumor spread by the press; when the queen reads of this she is confounded as to why anyone would think she would ever say that.

For most of the film, Marie and her entourage are sequestered from the real world, living in a bubble of parties, champagne, shoes and decadent baked goods (their is an entire sequence of the film that features nothing but shots of delicacies and royal footwear with Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" as the score).

Eventually, we see the revolt happen and the palace is stormed by the revolutionaries while Marie, the king, and their children are taken away to meet their fate. We never see the be- headings, instead we have one last shot of the royal bedroom, now in ruins, as the film's coda.

I did have a problem with the 80's soundtrack. What was that all about? Was it Coppola's way of saying that Marie was nothing more than an 18th century Molly Ringwald - pretty in pink? Again, I can't say, I really did not understand the choice using these songs in the soundtrack.

All in all, this is not a bad movie, but I sense that we really did not get the actual story of Marie Antoinette, instead we were given a filmmakers take on the woman's story, made light and frothy.

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