Sophia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” is a girly movie about a girly girl, aka the Austrian-born dauphine of France, who at a very young age was confronted with the harsh reality of being away from her mother, her country, her family and even her pug. It is an idealized portrayal of what it must have been like to become Marie Antoinette, the much talked about, and much maligned Queen of the French.
Though normally I am very strict about the historical accuracy of period films, I feel that it is not the intention of this movie to take you to the classroom. Instead, it is intended as a fictionalized representation of the luxurious life in Versailles, with a glimpse of the intrigue, the gossip, the scandal, and the licentiousness of the French court of the late XVIII century.
The first thing that called my attention is the scarcity of substantial dialogues. This could very well be a silent film; just a few text screens to describe the situations would have sufficed. Many scenes are plagued by irrelevant phrases such as “good morning”, “thank you” and others of the kind. A few historical facts are thrown here and there to provide us with chronology, and though I did not find any noteworthy historical errors, if you really want to learn about the politics of the time of the French Revolution, I suggest looking elsewhere. You will not find much here.
The costumes and set in the palace of Versailles are total eye candy and remain my main reason to watch the movie over and over. No effort was spared to recreate the most minimal details to produce a stunning visual feast.
The music, contrary to what many here think was, in my opinion, entirely appropriate. In fact, it’s part of what makes this movie so distinct. Sophia wanted to make us experience what Marie Antoinette’s parties, shopping and dessert binges must have been like, and the anachronistic music —as strange as it may seem— is perfect to produce that effect in a modern audience. It was a bold approach and a brave move, but very well done.
There are also a couple of very powerful scenes in this movie. One of them, the Queen’s bow in front of the demanding peasants; or her sorrow after the birth of her nephew, before she could get pregnant; or take her loneliness at the Parisian opera, when other attendees refuse to join her claps. It takes an actress such as Kirsten Dunst to remain credible during such intense moments, after all the frivolity —and sweetness— of her character in the rest of the film.
I read somewhere that this movie was booed in Cannes by French reporters who wanted to see Marie Antoinette portraited as the evil queen they have been led to believe she was. Remember folks, if you are looking for historical depth, this is not your place. Ironically, Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette may be closer to the real character of France’s last queen than what many history books teach.