I personally stayed away from Marie Antoinette when it was released last fall due to mixed word-of-mouth from other people. I only wish that I wouldn’t have listened because honestly the film is quite ballsy in its approach and the performances are top notch.
You’ve never seen royalty quite like this. In Sophia Coppola’s third feature, the subject is the infamous French Queen best known for telling her subjects, “let them eat cake.” Rather than rely on convention, Coppola and company throw out the rules of making the usual historical picture but a more contemporary fare.
The film spends little time of the French revolution and doesn’t show the decapitation of the beautiful Queen, but the Marie we do see is sympathetic. Marie, played masterfully by Kristen Dunst, is just a young woman of 14 years of age when she must marry the Prince of France, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) and a meager 19 when she becomes Queen. How is one expected to understanding the workings of an economy, natural resources and the needs of it people when they themselves are still a child. In this perspective it is easy to comprehend why Marie behaved as she did. This is the side of her the movie chose to portray rather than going with more traditional approach to the historic figure. Throughout the film Marie is shown as a loving mother, caring daughter and strong dealing with harsh criticism from the moment she ascends to the throne.
However, The Affair of the Necklace paints her as a snobbish, vain and totally uncaring ruler who is complete infatuated with herself. This is the popular image of Marie and Coppola just offers another viewpoint that differs from what most have come to accept. This was just one ascpect of the movie that lead to some very harsh and unwarranted criticism. In her efforts to make this incarnation distinct from others: there are no French accents (or use of the language whatsoever), the soundtrack to the film is filled with ’80s art-pop-rock and even the manner in which the characters speak has been modernised. These choices make Marie Antoinette more accessible to the newer generation, but is upsetting to traditionalist. Certainly, Marie Antoinette would be much more enjoyable watching in a history class than the typical boring documentary style films which succeed only in putting the class on the edge of boredom.
Coppola continues to astound as a budding director. Her visuals are grand and her recreation of 18th century Versailles is utterly magnificent. In The Virgin Suicides she created a dream-like suburbs. In Lost in Translation she made audiences marvel at the beauty and striking similarities between Japan and America. And now, in Marie Antoinette she transport viewers back to a time of innocence with a misunderstood woman.
Dunst is outstanding as the young Queen and pitch perfectly captures her innocence and naivity. Since breaking onto the scene in 1994’s Interview with the Vampire, Dunst has been delivering knock performances in Spiderman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Cat’s Meow and alongside Coppola in . This is easily one of the year’s best performance and clearly its most underrated.
Should you find yourself combing the aisles of Blockbuster in search of a decent way to spend a Sunday night, look no further than this unqiue vision. Go ahead try a piece of this intoxicating cake.