At turns refreshingly innovative and pretentiously shallow, Marie Antoinette is a difficult film to gauge due to the unique angle Sofia Coppola employs for the period piece. While strangely hypnotic at times in it’s blissful capturing of pleasure, the film often feels unfocused as well, dangerously teetering between artsy production and vanity project, rarely becoming anything more meaningful. Giving the notorious queen an updated relevance may bode well in creating some sort of historical context for an oblivious demographic of MTV teenage girls, but anyone mature enough to realize the difference between style and exploitation will find that many of the scenes feel repetitive, with the ravishing set design playing front and center to the stubbornly plotted events that relay (through some sort of obscure fact-based mythology) France’s public enemy number one before, during and throughout her troubled reign.
One must give Coppola some credit for at least attempting something quite unique though. In the film’s greatest moments, where the fickle, care-free parties of the decadent royal family are breezily edited amidst the contrasting modern day indie soundtrack, there is a certain guilty pleasure and an articulation of fun that really hasn’t been explored in the context of a historical film. However, it becomes increasingly apparent that the director used this premise merely to indulge her fondness for the exquisite lifestyle the queen was involved in, shunning a majority of context and depth in favor of the effervescence that dominates the tone here. The much talked about modern musical selections playing to century old antics, scored as they are, do capture a few select moments of glaring, and daring beauty (think of the brief use of the cure when they are walking down the steps), but too often only feels right in fleeting moments of the scene and awkward during the rest.
Plagued by a few technical blunders and the distinct lack of authenticity in the performances (Kirsten Dunst does have some amazing moments- but no one is even trying to sound believable, as personified in the modern day, off-key ridiculousness of Jason Schwartzman’s Louis XVI), the monumental set design does not really compliment most of the content here, no matter what Coppolla’s misdirected though promising artistic ambitions thought they were achieving. As such, the movie does have some amazing moments that will be magnified depending on the size of your viewing screen, but by and large it plays out immaturely and insults the viewer with it’s unfocused approach.
*Making of Featurette
* “Cribs With Louis XVI”