Marie Antoinette (2006)
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne, Asia Argento, Molly Shannon
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
I was actually in Versailles this summer, touring the grounds where this movie takes place. So watching Sofia Coppola‘s lush representation of the court of Louis the XVI offered a little more for me, as I got to see the places I toured this summer as they were originally presented. Unfortunately, touring Versailles was kinda boring for me, as I have little interest in the opulence and wealth of royalty. The stale and boring lives of monarchy hold no interest to me, so walking through the palace while my audio guide explained where a certain candlestick or whatever came from nearly put me to sleep.
Fortunately, Coppola’s movie was supposed to be a slick re-imaging of the queen and her court, complete with an American Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) and a post-punk soundtrack. It upset the Marie Antoinette historical society with its depiction, and was reviled by the French. Hey, if the French don’t like it, then it couldn’t be too bad, right?
Unless, of course, I just didn’t like it for different reasons than the French or stuffy historians. Their issues were modernisation and inaccuracies. Mine were that the movie was BOOOOOOOOORRRRing. About as interesting as walking around the palace listening to an audio guide explain where a certain candlestick or whatever came from. It started out pretty cool, with Gang of Four playing with Sex Pistols-type writing delivering the credits. Then the movie started, and never again showed the edge of the credits sequence, even when shoe-horning The Strokes into a montage.
You wouldn’t expect a movie that was controversial for supposed pop art interpretations of history to be so bloodless, but it was. Coppola may as well have dropped the scant pop trappings and American actors, and just made some Masterpiece Theatre/Merchant Ivory piece, because she turned out a movie that was about that thrilling. Admittedly, I’m not the audience for a period-piece costume drama, but this movie wasn’t billed as such, and I have been known to be won over by a movie about a queen, when done right.
Not that the movie is all bad. It really is a gorgeous-looking picture, filled with all the opulent beauty one would expect. The art and costume departments of the film really shone with this effort, filling the screen with wonderful things to look at. Coppola is also really good at finding the absurdity of courtly life and presenting it without resorting to winking at the camera. Unfortunately, the biggest thing she seems to be saying about the life of privilege that Marie Antoinette led is that it is really boring. Which is probably accurate, but probably not the sense you want to be projecting to a movie audience for two hours. If that was all Coppola wanted to say, that this whole affair is really boring, then mission accomplished!