Marie Antoinette

 
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Written by:Sofia Coppola
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Asia Argento, Rose Byrne, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston, Steve Coogan
Released: December 26, 2006
Grade: C

It may be more than 200 years old but Marie Antoinette’s story continues to fascinate those who hear it.  She was born in Austria in 1755 as the last of her mother’s fifteen children.  To help secure the alliance between Austria and France, it was arranged for her to marry Louis-Auguste, the heir to the French throne.  She was only 14 years old on her wedding day.

When the king died four years later, Louis-Auguste (as Louis XVI) and Marie Antoinette became the new King and Queen.  There were constant rumours (such as why they didn’t immediately have children) but despite this, Louis and Marie were loved and respected by the people of France.

Times soon changed.  By 1789, France had slipped into a deep depression.  Food was scarce, unemployment was high and most were poverty stricken.  Unhappy with the King’s increased taxes and the Queen’s spendthrift ways, the people revolted.  A mob broke into the Palace forcing the King and Queen to flee.

It was the start of the French Revolution.  The monarchy would collapse not long after and both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were found guilty of treason.  Marie Antoinette was executed by guillotine in 1793.

Sofia Coppola’s film on Marie Antoinette is strange to say the least.  It features a varied cast (with two Americans in the leading roles) and a soundtrack that mixes classical with rock.  It’s a bold project – one that is try to be cool and trendy whilst still somehow maintaining the aura of 18th Century France.  It’s similar to what Baz Luhrmann did with Romeo & Juliet 10 years ago.

Unfortunately for Sofia, her gamble has not come to fruition.  Marie Antoinette is a jumbled mess of repetitive scenes.  Based on what’s in the film, you’d think that Marie Antoinette only did four things – eat, drink, party and pressure her husband to have sex.  Even if this is an accurate portrayal of her life, how should it keep my attention for two hours?  Why do I have to watch her party so often?  What is this telling me?

The film ends with Louis and Marie being kicked out their Palace.  Her death and the battles in the years leading up to it aren’t covered.  Sofia Coppola has tried to be original in telling the story from a different angle.  She wants to look at how Antoinette came to be instead of focusing on her famous death.  Again, it doesn’t work.  So many scenes felt the same.  It was only in the final 15 minutes (when France starts to revolt) that I had any interest.

My criticisms won’t be a startling newsflash for those who’ve followed this film’s release.  When in premiered in France at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it was greeted with “a thunder of boos”.  That said, some critics have been are fond of its audacious style and have lavished the film with praise.  I can only assume that the film fits into that special category where “you’ll either love it or hate it”.

Sofia Coppola’s last film, Lost In Translation, was brilliant.  I’ve seen it many times and the Academy Award she took home (for best original screenplay) was well deserved.  In stark contrast, Marie Antoinette is a yawn-fest.  I intend never to see it again.