Marie Antoinette

I got bored during the parts with Marie Antoinette
★
☆☆
Released: 
2006
Director: 
Sofia Coppola
Starring: 
Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Steve Coogan, Judy Davis, Rip Torn
The Setup: 
Marie Antoinette gives/attends a bunch of parties.
Discussion: 

You know that this movie was laughed out of Cannes, right? That is about the most interesting thing about it, as it turns out, and that [and many of the positive U.S. reviews] was enough to get me quite curious about it. Plus I like Kirsten Dunst. So me and my friend made it two Royal weekends in a row, as we had both seen The Queen last Sunday.

Hopes were high. My friend said he was really looking forward to it. It begins with Marie being shipped off to France to wed the future Louis XVI. There are numerous scenes of her bewilderment at the many rigid rituals required of her, which include about 35 people being in her bedroom to dress her in the morning. These rituals either cease or we just don’t see them later in the movie, can’t tell which.

Then there’s a lot of stuff about how her husband won’t have sex with her, and the pressure on her to produce an heir. She makes herself available, but he’s obviously terrified. She seems to get letters every day from her mother telling her that “her position is by no means assured” until she produces an heir. Marie feels pressured. Blah, blah, blah.

By the way, no one here makes any attempt to speak in any kind of accent.

Then halfway through the King dies, making her husband the King and Marie the Queen, so they can take their time with the babies and do whatever they want. They have parties. They go to parties. Marie has her friends always around. She shops a lot. She spends a lot of money. She eats a lot of cakes. Then all of a sudden there’s a mob outside [if you didn’t know your French history you might have no idea why], and then it’s over.

Coppola has said that she wasn’t interested in the “historical truth” of the story, she was interested in the “emotional truth.” She had a GREAT quote in the NYTimes a few weeks ago about how she read the bio this movie is based on but “I got bored during the parts with the facts,” so she skipped ahead to the “emotional” parts. First of all; aren’t you embarrassed to say something like that? Secondly, there seems to be no conception that an acquaintance with the facts could actually enrich the “emotional truth.”

The much-talked about anachronistic pop music adds nothing and is jarring whenever it comes on. I have heard that there’s supposed to be some “commentary on modern celebrity culture,” and I suppose maybe there is, but WHO THE FUCK CARES ABOUT CELEBRITY CULTURE? The only people who think celebrity culture is interesting are those who don’t read books or newspapers, but still think they should have opinions about something.

Everyone’s good, especially Dunst. But I think Coppola relies on her face to express the “emotional truth” of what’s happening during the second hour, but to the audience it just seems like she’s having a lot of fun. Okay, I get it that the point is that she’s having a lot of fun while people are starving, but then show us a few people starving so we make the connection. I know that may constitute “the part with the facts,” but it would actually help the audience have more of an emotional connection between what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what it MEANS that Marie is just having fun.

My friend thought it was poorly made, that a lot of the shots looked like shit. I didn’t so much think so, though I do think it was directorially undistinguished. Overall, I just think it’s self-indulgent. Coppola seems to assume that since the sight of Dunst cavorting means something to her, that it’ll also have meaning for her audience. And you know what else, sweetie? We get the whole “thoughtful girl alone in a strange world,” thing by now, so let’s move on, okay?

I liked but didn’t love Lost in Translation and Virgin Suicides and, based on this, I’m not really looking forward to Coppola’s next film. Insert pithy closer.

Should you watch it: 

I would really think twice about that.