At the Movies

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.

8 thoughts on “At the Movies”

  1. Very well put. In a way I thought it kind of emphasized how clueless she may have been till things fell apart, but yes the time coverage was really warped. Thankfully there was much to look at and some humor thrown in here and there. I definitely would not want to be a princess in any time period – unless it were a Disney one.

  2. I think my assessment of this flick was much yours … It’s been a long time since I got to see it back in July, but I remember it being extremely beautiful to look at but quite boring in long stretches … The stretch that irked me the most was the 45 minutes or so that could have been labeled the “Birthing Rituals of the Young and Noble.”

  3. Susan Higginbotham

    Gata, I really enjoyed the first part of this film! And in all honesty, I’ll probably rent the DVD when it comes out just to feast on the scenery again. (Now you’ve got me thinking what this story would look like if Disney got its mitts on it!)

    Reel fanatic, thanks for stopping by! I wasn’t so much bored after the first as thinking, “Isn’t there a revolution out here somewhere?”

  4. elena maria vidal

    It is a shame…. It sounds like a really terrific screenplay (with the inclusion of the earthshaking events which changed Marie-Antoinette’s life) could have made the film into a masterpiece. To try to tell the story of Marie-Antoinette without the French Revolution is like the movie “Titanic” without the sinking ship….

  5. I’m late to the party here, loved most of the movie, skipped over much at the end, did anyone notice the red sneakers among the 18th C shoes in the scene where the girls are previewing the latest fashions from Mme. Bertin? Beautifully executed movie really. Nothing proven either way as to wheather Marie had a sexual relationship with Count Fersen or not. I hope she did!! MA was 14 when she came to France as Dauphine. The different court factions were pushing and pulling her many ways, not to mention her Mother. It must have been very difficult to negotiate thru that nest of corrupt courtiers. A fascinating woman and time.

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