Marie Antoinette review by Mike Long

It would by an understatement to say that Sofia Coppola has had a career full of ups and downs. She received a critical drumming and two Razzies for her role in her father's The Godfather III. Turning to director, she was praised for her first feature film The Virgin Suicides and then won an Oscar writing her next film Lost in Translation, which was nominated (or won) a slew of other honors. After this, it would seem that Coppola was essentially free to writer her own ticket. Now, her career may be on a downslide again, as this next project was Marie Antoinette, a boring film which received indifferent reviews from critics and was ignored by the filmgoing public.

Kirsten Dunst essays the titular role in Marie Antoinette. As the film opens, we meet Marie, a teenager who is an Autrian noble. In order to secure an alliance between Austria and France, Marie is sent to France to fulfill an arranged marriage with Prince Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). While this situation should be an adventure, Marie soon finds herself depressed, as she misses her home-country and family, and has a hard time adjusting to all of the rules of Versailles. To make matters worse, Marie is expected to produce an heir, but Louis shows no interest in her. So, Marie spends her days going through the motion of her position and gossiping with the members of her court. Marie's ennui leads to excessive drinking, gambling, and shopping. Even when Louis comes around and Marie's life becomes more like that of a queen, she still likes to shake things p and do them her own way. However, unrest outside of the palace threatens to upset Marie's way of life.

Marie Antoinette may be one of the best movies ever made...if I'm interpreting Coppola's intentions correctly. In the film, we learn that Marie's fairytale life as a princess/queen was anything but. She was a stranger in a strange land who had to adapt to a completely different way of life. She also had to contend with a husband who had no interest in her (and acted mildly retarded) and the pressure to get pregnant. She found herself surrounded by backstabbing gossips who couldn't be trusted. But, most of all, Marie was a teenager who wanted an exciting life, but found her existence in the palace to be quite boring. Coppola perfectly captures Marie's dreary day-to-day existence and the audience can feel her boredom and longing.

Which leads us to why Marie Antoinette may be one of the worst movies ever made. Watching someone be bored is really boring. As Marie waits for something to happen, so do we. Coppola does a fine job of communicating Marie's emotions, but watching someone repeat the same routine over and over doesn't make for an entertaining film. The movie is further hampered by the lack of detail in the story. Simply put, if you don't already know a great deal about the real Marie Antoinette, then you're going to be lost. We are given the basics about who she is and where she came from, but there is little detail about what is going on around her, and more importantly, who many of the other characters are. Thus, when something finally does happen, it's difficult to feel any emotional connection to the film. Coppola has made an interesting choice of keeping all of the action inside of Versailles and not giving us any views of the conditions in the rest of France. This artistic choice trips up the film as, once again, those of us who aren't familiar with French history won't have enough info on exactly why the uprising is taking place. (Higher taxes and lack of food are mentioned, and those are certainly good reasons to revolt, but I wanted more details.) Ultimately, despite the film's title, we don't get to know Marie.

None of this is help by the style which Coppola has chosen to shoot the film. I can only assume that she was trying to reflect Marie's mood, but a lot of the film is done in random shots, some close up and some far away, many of which look hand held. This is the first feature film that I've seen where it looks like the entire movie was shot by the second unit. (Which was helmed by Sofia's brother, Roman.)

This is all quite unfortunate, as the movie has production design quality that other movies would kill for. This $40 million production was actually shot in Versailles and at other historical landmarks in France. The movie features elaborately decorated sets and sumptuous costumes which recreate the period down to the slightest detail. Coppola has shot the film using a lot of pastels, especially mint green and pink. In short, Marie Antoinette is a feast for the eyes. The movie also boasts a strong cast, and Dunst is good in the title role. Yet, it's Coppola's cousin Schwartzman who steals the show as he's perfectly cast as the apathetic Louis.

Marie Antoinette is a disappointment on all counts. I was hoping to be entertained by the film, and I certainly wouldn't have minded being educated by it. Ultimately, I found neither in the movie. And the movie's much ballyhooed use of rock music neither helped or hurt the movie. By the time that it really kicked in by the film's second half, I was too bored to care. I did learn that Marie Antoinette didn't say "Let them eat cake.", but I am saying, "Let them not bother with this dull movie."

Marie Antoinette ascends to the throne on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks good, as the film's fantastic color palette comes through quite nicely on this transfer. The pastels look great and contrast well with the darker colors in the film. The image is free from grain or defects from the source material. The image did lose detail at times, and I noted some video noise in some exterior shots. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fine, and the surround sound channels really come to life during the crowd scenes or for musical cues. The subwoofer is used sparingly, but does provide ambience during the finale.

The Marie Antoinette DVD contains only a few extra features. "The Making of Marie Antoinette" (26 minutes) contains no clips (thank God!) and is comprised solely of casual behind-the-scenes footage. We see a lot of Coppola working on the set and there are comments from the cast and crew. This segment offers a nice look at the locations and what was done to dress them. We get to see even more of the sets when Jason Schwartzman hosts "Cribs with Louis XVI" (4 minutes), a humorous bit which lampoons the style of the MTV show. The extras are rounded out by two DELETED SCENES, the film's THEATRICAL TEASER and THEATRICAL TRAILER.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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