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Movie Review: Marie Antoinette

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The line between eccentric genius and delusional is often a thin one when it comes to filmmakers. Some films are very misunderstood when they are first released, then heralded later as great work — others are just misunderstood. For Sofia Coppola, my hope is that Marie Antoinette ends up being a showcase at the UCLA film school in 20 years because it redefined the biopic — otherwise it will die in obscurity.

The sad story of this film stems from its confused representation of the life of Marie Antoinette, the estranged and ill-fated Queen of France, whose vanity and extravagant taste earned her a seat in the guillotine later in life. Kirsten Dunst — the furthest thing from an Austrian duchess turned French Queen — was cast in the lead role along side Jason Schwartzman as Louis XVI. These casting decisions alone could be enough to condemn this movie, but it appears that Coppola had a plan.

The plan was to tell the story of Marie Antoinette from the eyes of the young queen; to show the emotions and turmoil of being thrust into the life of a Queen at a young age and having to bear the burden of an entire country. Not only did Coppola want to tell the story this way, but she wanted to add her own flair as well to give the movie life — bright colors, a loud punk rock soundtrack and a cast that doesn’t fit the traditional mold for a historical biopic (i.e. their accents don’t match everyone else’s).

The result is a film that comes in like a punk rock video, pounding away at the audience with vivid colors, flashy scenery and of course — very loud music. But after the flash is gone from the pan, you find yourself yawning, checking your watch and searching for the last bits of popcorn from the bottom of the bag. It goes from loud and proud to downright atrocious. The dialog becomes heavy and the need to explain the historical relevance of these events kicks in — giving the film a quality that can only be described as boring. The film never really resurrects itself from this lethargic pace, even through what could be called the climax of the story, never recapturing its audience; then rather than ending, it just seems to fade away.

Coppola’s attempt at being original and edgy ends up being more of a missed opportunity than anything else. She dives off the deep end of the pier, but her film sinks rather than swims. The casting was right for the purpose, but wrong in execution.  The soundtrack is aggressive but it doesn’t work, and the film works its way into the realm of absolutely boring. Perhaps it would have been more entertaining if they had shown Kirsten Dunst facing the guillotine — or maybe not.

In the end, there was a reason why the French chopped of Marie Antoinette’s head — just as there was a reason why they booed this film at Cannes.

The Upside: The costumes are fun and the film starts off with purpose.

The Downside: The film’s purpose fades quickly, leaving it with poor pacing and too much talking! It is just not enough to keep even the biggest history buff tuned in.

On the Side: Sofia Coppola refused to read the famous biography of Marie-Antoinette written by Stefan Zweig, which she judged too strict. She turned instead to the book by Antonia Fraser, which makes the queen a more human character, a young girl with no connection to reality who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Release Date: October 20, 2006

Final Grade: 1.5 Stars

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About Neil Miller

  • Mark Saleski

    if you read roger ebert’s take on what went on at cannes, you’ll see that the booing was sort of blown out of proportion.

    too much talking? cripes, we need more talking in film today. that one line alone made me want to see this movie.

  • Not a huge fan of the historical movie, mainly because of that need to fill the viewers in on the history end of things and the fact that there’s where they tend to drag. I usually just wanna be entertained. I’m thinking that this should go on my online rental list in stead of getting out to the theater.

    Thanks for helping me make up my mind…GREAT job!!


    Outside of the visual beauty of Kirsten Dunst, the costumes, and the sets, I thought he movie was terrible, one slow slog to the end.

  • S. Sellars

    This film is another example of just how out of touch “Hollywood” is to the consumer… Boring.. slow… and a huge dissapointment… sorry, Sofia, Kirsten…

    PS… and adding Converse sneakers to the shoe collection… dumb

    S. Sellars Duluth, Georgia

  • I’ll still have to go see it, for the punk music if nothing else. But the previews still are very eye catching… maybe they will bring enough people in.

  • Given that I think Kirsten Dunst is one of the worst actresses around, I think this review ensures I’ll never see this.

  • Mark Saleski

    if scarlet whateverhernameis was playing the lead, you’d be all over it mr. winn.

  • Phillip, let not The Duke hear you say speak such anti-Kirsten sentiments. Your mangling of the accent he can take, sullying Kirsten might cause him to deal with you. =)

  • In my opinion, Scarlett may have made a better Marie Antoinette… But then again, there was still the punk rock music and – Jason Schwartzman? This one was a bomb. Looking back on my review, I let it down too softly…

  • justine

    Dunst sullies herself with her own lack of acting talent, tittering about grinning with sly winks and provocative teasing baring of the body are good for soft porn but not for a major film.

    Couldn’t Sofia have switched Rose Byrne into the lead role?!

    The movie had no plot, acting ability or character development, and it wasn’t even fun to watch. Boring.