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Marie Antoinette

September 19, 2013

Marie Antoinette (2006)
Director: Sofia Coppola
Actors: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rosie Byrne

marie antoinette

Synopsis: A teenage Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) is ushered from the Austrian court to be married to young French dauphin Louis-Auguste (Jason Schwartzman). Marie Antoinette is secluded and pampered by her extreme privilege, and though she suffers pressure due to the immediate inability of her husband to consummate their relationship, after she gives birth to a young princess and prince, her position is assured. That is, until a proletariat revolution strikes on the streets of Paris…

Review: Sofia Coppola is a tonally assured and thoroughly competent director who knows exactly where she takes each of her films and the importance of the interplay between style and narrative. Thus, Marie Antoinette is a convincing enough essay on the suffocation of extreme privilege, and it problematises nicely whether it is the protagonist’s innocence or ignorance that is most to blame for their ultimate downfall. That all this works is due in no small part to the expert presence of Kirsten Dunst in the lead role. She carries Marie Antoinette‘s thematic baggage so well in her sweet smile and soft voice (essayed so well as the ‘girl next door’ in Sam Raimi’s SpiderMan series), and she charms in portraying Marie Antoinette’s journey from wide-eyed Austrian ingénue/outsider, to excessive party-girl, and slowly maturing mother of two children and Queen to the French head of state.

Despite all that, ultimately I consider this to be Sofia Coppola’s least interesting film. While I think her postmodern, proto-It girl thesis is lightly amusing and permissible, it garners very little extra depth beyond the slight end irony of Marie Antoinette being dragged away from her cosseted cocoon. And all the gorgings on costume, lush production design, and a trendy 70s/80s New Wave soundtrack – though again, technically permissible – can’t help but come across as indulgences from the director herself. (September 2013)

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