Movie Review: Marie Antoinette

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
If Sofia Coppola meant to do a trilogy on teenage girls, then Marie Antoinette is the definitive film that tells us this is true. Kirsten Dunst plays the teenage bride from Austria who was paired up with the clumsy and rather dull Louis XVI played rather well by Jason Schwartzman. As Marie leaves Austria she must part with everything from her country, her clothes and even worse her little dog. " Donít worry", assures the Comptese de Noailles splendidly played by Judy Davis, "you can have as many French dogs as you wish". Marie's tears in this instant definitely establish that this is a very young queen to be. And when the custom of morning dressing must defer to the highest ranked lady of the room, who can enter at any point, Marie stands shivering, and exclaims, "This is ridiculous". To which the Comptesse gracefully replies, "This is Versailles". For all the pomposity of the court, and the pressure to do the Great Work, that is provide a male heir to the French throne, Marie is rather happy go lucky. But she sees through the charades of others such as the kingís mistress whose title was bought for her - the Comptesse du Barry played enchantingly by Asia Argento. Marie rather quickly wins the admiration of others, especially after she gives birth to not one but three children. And she manages to find time to create a little farming village and garden on the grounds of Versailles where she raises duck and pigs (Le Hameau). She also manages to attract a Swedish soldier,Count Axel Fersen, and has a temptuous love affair, but this is Versailles too. The character of Marie is drawn from the novel by Lady Antonia Fraser and adapted by Coppola with the perspective that this was indeed a very young woman with lots of responsibility thrown at her. She had barely enough time to grow up, and seems fine doing things that young teenagers do: taking bubble baths, eating desserts, dancing, going to masquerades and having a love affair. The use of contemporary rock music adds a frivolous and delightful not to mention youthful tone to the film. Coppola has imparted her movie with several excellent appointments, such as a pair of keds in the royal shoe closet. The French did not seem to like the point of view in the film which refutes that the extravagant Antoinette was oblivious to the demands of her people and told them to eat cake when they begged for bread. To this Lady Fraser replies, that is because they are French. This is portrayed as a myth and it is dismissed in the film, though a bit overdone. Several writers stirred up the revolution like Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville and Voltaire and the royal couple ignored the pressures. Even the bourgeoisie in their own court were against them, as witnessed by a performance at the opera when Marie claps and the audience stares at her coldly. Fickle you might say, definitely a great tragedy to execute the king and queen who pardoned their subjects immediately before their death. The execution of Marie at Place de Concorde in the middle of Paris is not dealt with in the film, and the film ends just as angry Parisians enter Versailles and the royal family escapes by coach. Sofia Coppola succeeds very well in showing this young Marie Antoinette and Kirsten Dunst is exceptional in a film with tremendous possibilities for the future careers of this talented director and actress.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Paris FRANCE
More Information:
Marie Antoinette
Japan/France/USA - 2006