This weekend I saw the Sofia Coppola movie Marie Antoinette. An interesting movie, but all in all a disappointment.
Visually, this is a gorgeous movie–beautiful interior and exterior shots and exquisite costuming. Even the various yippy little dogs that chew the scenery (and the furniture) seem to have been chosen very carefully.
The use of rock music here has been quite controversial, but I didn’t find it offputting–it mostly is used as a backdrop for scenes such as raucous parties and therefore seemed quite fitting. Period music, especially opera, is also used to good effect.
There are some very clever scenes here, such as the one where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s brother Joseph discuss the facts of life while a caged elephant intrudes his trunk into their presence, and some rather droll ones, like the one where Marie Antoinette and her girlfriends, dressed in expensively simple frocks and having had some tea out of china that could probably have fed a family of six for a year, solemnly read Rousseau.
Most of the movie is devoted to Marie Antoinette’s awkward position at Versailles, where she’s ridiculed by courtiers for not producing an heir and lectured by her mother via mail for not doing more to get the reluctant Louis in the mood. After, it’s no wonder the poor girl just wants to have fun.
Unfortunately, once the marriage finally produces a child (albeit of the wrong sex) and Marie Antoinette abandons the party scene for the simple life at the Petit Trianon, the film seems to lose its focus. Axel Fersen, an old acquaintance from Marie Antoinette’s champagne days, arrives on the scene, and the two have a fling. After this, the years fly by. A son is born, a child dies, rude writings start to appear about Marie Antoinette, the queen sends away her friends for their own safety, the mob comes to Versailles, and the film ends. All of this takes place in the film’s last twenty minutes or so, which feel like a coda to the earlier part of the movie. With so much time given to the young Marie Antoinette and so little given to the older woman, the film felt disjointed in the extreme, and the affecting last scene, a shot of the ransacked royal bedroom, couldn’t make up for the relative emptiness of the last part of the movie.
All in all, a film like one of the pastries that are consumed in it: pleasant in the eating but in the end leaving the viewer wishing she’d had something more substantial.