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Movie Review

Marie Antoinette

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity and innuendo

Reviewed by: Michael Karounos
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Genre:
Biography, Drama, Adaptation
Length:
2 hr. 3 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
October 20, 2006 (800 theaters)
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures

Royalty of the Bible: Kings / Queens / Princes

Featuring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Asia Argento, Rip Torn, Molly Shannon
Director: Sofia Coppola
Producer: Fred Roos, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Rassam
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Milena Canonero won an Academy Award for the costume design of this film.

“Let Them Eat Cake”

“Marie Antoinette” would have been better titled “Dazed and Confused” or “Clueless in Paris.” In the opening scene, Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) arrives at the border of France only to be ceremonially stripped of her dog, of her clothing, and of her Austrian identity. The loss of identity is the governing metaphor of the first half of the movie. She can no longer be what she was, and she’s not allowed to be what the French want her to be: a queen.

The movie tracks her frustrated efforts to make love to her disinterested husband, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman), but her “rebellion,” such as it is, consists of eating lots of chocolates, drinking lots of champagne, and buying lots (and lots) of shoes. Had the movie been titled “Ismelda Marcos” it would have made no difference to the viewer.

It is difficult to understand what Sofia Coppola was thinking when she wrote and story-boarded this movie. Not only is Kirsten Dunst vacuous, but her voice is nasally, flat-pitched, and grating. How can a professional actress not understand how to inflect her lines? Unfortunately, the dialogue and the scenes are vacuous as well. One keeps waiting for something of substance to happen, but probably a third of the movie consists of Marie hanging out with her girlfriends, running upstairs, running downstairs, giggling, and eating still more chocolates.

There are also at least four different scenes in which we are forced to watch the girls (one can hardly call them women) ooh and ah over yards of fabric, shoes, hats, and hairdos. Additionally, we are treated to the decadent spectacle of dogs eating off plates on at least three different occasions, perhaps to remind us that while Marie and company ate cake, the peasants were starving. Unfortunately, we never see anything but silk, brocade, and make-up. Starving peasants are an abstraction that the movie can’t be bothered to visualize.

At one point, her advisor tells her that she has already spent her allotment of 50,000 francs for the month, but Marie nonetheless chooses to dip into her charity budget for garden trees. This could potentially have been a serious moment, but it is treated like every other incident, with no distinguishing tone to give the viewer insight into either the character or the film’s perspective.

Marie is later encouraged by her brother to curb her entertainments and to change her companions. Although she ignores this advice as well, it is seen by the viewer more as the error of a foolish person, rather than as the rebellious action of an intelligent one.

Indeed, “Marie Antoinette” is such a bad movie that one is tempted to think of director Sofia Coppola herself as a type of queen flattered by admirers who are too frivolous or dishonest to tell her that her lavish entertainment is criminal.

In the end, the movie spends a few minutes on the peasants arriving at Versailles to air their grievances, but Coppola purposely keeps them faceless, showing their sharp weapons in stark relief, but never showing a sympathetic shot of an individual. Rather, during these moments of turmoil, we see only the concerned expressions of the king and queen as they bravely await the judgment of fate.

It is a revisionist movie whose judgment of the royal couple is sympathetically expressed several times. When Louis becomes king, he falls to his knees and prays because he says, “We are too young to rule.” When her brother confronts both her and Louis about the lack of movement on producing an heir, he concludes that “The king and queen are blunderers.” Louis plays with horses and likes locks. Marie eats sweets and laughs a lot. They are teenagers in a turbulent world. It’s not their fault. Nothing is their fault.

Ultimately, the movie’s greater sin is that it refuses to take itself or its subject seriously. The French Revolution is the defining event of the modern era, and its repercussions are still being felt in Europe. The creation of a European constitution without mention of God in its 200 pages is a direct consequence of the French Revolution, and yet Coppola couldn’t be bothered to give us a three dimensional portrait of a real and tragic person who lost her life as a direct consequence of the policies that she and her husband oversaw.

Given the opportunity to portray a great, if flawed, woman, Sofia Coppola chose to make her an American teenager. Such a flagrant waste of money deserves a revolution of its own, and viewers are strongly encouraged to not spend a penny on such a travesty of history and character.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This film was visually sumptuous. The acting was good except for Kirsten Dunst (Marie) who had the emotional range of a turnip. The script was interesting in revealing the inner workings of court life and it was creative in its portrayal of Marie’s experiences—although no one can say with certainty it was absolutely factual. There were a few nude scenes and references to royal dalliances, but compared to the average film out today, this is very mild stuff. Other than priests shown blessing official court events there was a glaring lack of spirituality. Marie was scrupulously educated in court etiquette to prepare her for her royal role—yet there was no corresponding religious training shown for either her or her husband. Perhaps it was this glaring absence of Christ’s love and guidance within Versailles that was one of the major reasons for the storming of the Bastille?
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—L. J. Capobianco, age 64
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie. I would say that it is mostly a movie made with women in mind. It shows Marie Antoinette shopping, eating, drinking, being silly with friends… but what do you expect she is a young girl and a queen. Of course she is going to act silly and spoiled, because well… she probably was. Viewers may find a couple of scenes offensive, I recall where Maria’s butt being shown as she is being changed by maids. And another scene where she has little but a fan and her leg to cover her body. The affairs she and her husband have polute the movie a bit and I wonder if they are even truly historical. I’d say the biggest letdown of this movie is how it drags on with what “fun” Marie had in life, but cuts off at the end when trouble comes upon the family, leaving the audience hanging. I feel it does teach the lesson in the end that ungodliness doesn’t pay off.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Christina, age 24
Neutral
Neutral—The only redeeming qualities of this film were the costumes and the Versailles set. Having visited Paris and Versailles several times, it was nice to see the place again. Were it not for sentimental reasons of places visited in my past I probably would have passed this one up. Yes, Kirsten Dunst is easy on the eyes, but she is no European. Playing an Austrian who speaks as if she is from California just does not do it for me. In the movie she speaks casual English to people, and they often answer her in French.

Kirsten is much better suited to play a preppie, like in “Mona Lisa Smiles,” or as Spiderman’s girlfriend. Of course, much of the music in this movie is whacked out. Some of it fits and is enchanting, but the punk/funk stuff does not work. Wonder why they ended it the way they did, not revealing how it all turned out. (No spoilers here.) One would do better by reading a history book and saving their money.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Richard, age 40
Neutral—Overall, a so-so movie. I would only watch this film with female friends, as males may find it very boring unless they are interested in history… although this film shows Antoinette as slighted and misunderstood, an alternative view which may not be historically accurate. The movie gives the impression that she was an easy target since she was young and Austrian. I suppose this is possible because history is written by whoever wins and Antoinette was eventually sent to the guillotine. Most of the film is from a female perspective and also includes never-ending gossip and cattiness from members of the French court. There is also a drawn out shopping scene to the song “I Want Candy” in which the women ooh and ah over shoes, dresses, etc. … so I would strictly label this a chick flick.

As far as morality, the main issue here is sexuality. Nudity or partial nudity is present twice when Antoinette is dressed by other women. Once is in a darkened tent and she is briefly shown from behind in the dim light. In another scene her bottom is covered by the bed and she covers her chest with crossed arms. Much of the movie centers around her unconsummated marriage to Louie with everyone demanding her to produce an heir. She attempts to strike his interest but it is very innocent and clumsy between them and she repeatedly fails. Antoinette only puts her arm around Louie and snuggles close… that is all. The worst scene is when Antoinette has an affair, late in the movie, with a Swedish officer. Only her fan and her propped up legs conceal her nudity but the scene is not very drawn out. Most of the sexuality in the film is banter and gossip that is exchanged between various people but it is not nearly as bad as what is usually present in films, although it happens frequently. The king also flaunts his mistress and in one scene he chases her into the bedroom, she meowing and him barking. Nothing explicit really goes on and their silly behavior is meant to be humorous more than anything. Later in the film though, there is proof that he had rather keep his mistress and risk salvation for a life of sin. The priest will not hear his confession so Louie has the mistress sent away, much to the king’s despair.

There is also much drinking of champagne, smoking of pipes, and gambling. Antoinette actually gambles away money that was meant to go to charity. There is also a brief scene when a woman at a party appears to snort a substance from the back of her hand. It could’ve been snuff but I suspect it was cocaine. It’s very brief and could be easily overlooked by many.

If there is any lesson to be learned from this film, it is to not put our trust in riches. We see that they are not enough to provide happiness for Antoinette, who is missing so much more from her life. The ransacked palace of Versailles is shown in the end, with broken chandeliers, etc.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Melissa, age 25
Negative
Negative—This movie was boring, awful, stupid and long! Oh my gosh—it ended and we were like “That was the stupidest movie we ever saw.” DON’T WASTE YOU TIME THIS MOVIE IS SO DUMB! Here I’ll save you the time (2 hours long). Austria’s princess marries the French king. They never have sex until about 2 years into the marriage. Then she has a girl, then an affair with a man from the war, eats lots of cake, buys lots of shoes, clothes and chocolate, has a boy (that we only assume is from the affair), angry mob storms castle, they ride off into the sunset.

That’s about it. What an awful movie—I wish I could get back my night with my husband. This movie drags and drags and drags on. There are parts where I said out loud, 'Oh come on, this is so boring!'. I actually fast forwarded the movie towards the end because I just wanted it to be over!!!… Kept expecting it to get better—it didn’t! Did I mention it was awful? I needed to be said one more time. This movie was terrible. The costumes were the only GOOD thing about this movie. …Two thumbs WAY DOWN!
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
—Amy, age 38
Comments from young people
Negative—Could they have taken any longer to get to the point? This is definitely one of the most boring movies I’ve seen this year. I mainly saw it to see if it deserved its Oscar nominations; best costume design was the only rightful one. Morally it wasn’t so bad, but story-wise, it didn’t hold my interest for long. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with it.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Linda, age 15
Negative—I have to say that I liked the movie because of the lavish costumes and fancy scenery. It was all captivating to the eyes with the lace and the chocolates and the self indulgent way that Marie Antoinette lived her life—which I must admit looked appealing. But the movie had no substance and you don’t really understand or like the characters. In the beginning I actually liked Marie Antoinette, she seemed innocent and lonely, confused and sweet, but by the middle of the movie she was an adulterating twit whose favorite sin was gluttony. The movie might’ve been good if they had showed different perspectives, as in portrayed a homeless person living on a street and their life, then maybe how that person decided to join the mob and rush the bastille and castle or something. Anything but this!!!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3
—Kay, age 16