Saturday, October 21, 2006

Marie Antoinette (12A)

If there’s one thing most people know about Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France, it’s that she was a rich bitch who didn’t give a damn about the poor. Ok, so she may not actually have said ‘let them eat cake’ when told that people didn’t have enough bread, but she might as well have done. So it is interesting that Sophia Coppola – heir to her father’s throne – tries to portray the pampered aristocrat as somehow deserving of sympathy in this biopic.

As a teenager, Marie Antoinette of Austria (played here by Kirsten Dunst) was married off to the dauphin Louis (Jason Schwartzman). He was the French equivalent of Prince Charles, making her the equivalent of Di. In fact that analogy stands up quite well, because they were totally incompatible, yet pressurised into producing a male child, and she ended-up having an affair with an aristocratic military man (Jamie Dornan). All this takes place amidst fantastic, obscene riches, strict protocol, and hair that gets progressively bigger as the film goes on.

In Sophia Coppola’s version of reality, Antoinette wasn’t totally shallow, because she read Jean-Jacques Rousseau tracts with her ladies in waiting. However, little did she know that the words she was quoting echoed changes going on outside her bubble, changes that would eventually lead to her overthrow and the reign of the emerging capitalist class in France.

Dunst lives-up to the starring role very well, but then she has actually gone on record as saying she “really showed (herself) in this movie the most” whilst wallowing in this ridiculously decadent opulence. There’s no dialogue to speak of in this film, just another box of shoes, another glass of champagne, another party. It’s an absolute fantasy. It’s this week’s The Devil Wears Prada. It’s an absolute spectacle, in the very worst sense of the word. Ordinary people are meant to hand over their fivers, drool over the kind of wealth they will never experience this side of another revolution, and get back to work.

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