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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, if nothing else, a tonally assured and thoroughly exacting director who knows exactly where she’s taking each of her films and the importance of the interplay between style and narrative. Armed with this skill and intent, Marie Antoinette is therefore a diverting enough piece on the suffocation of extreme privilege, and it problematises nicely whether Marie Antoinette’s ultimate downfall can be based more on her innocence or ignorance.

That much of the film’s politicking 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 Spider-Man series), and she charms in portraying Marie Antoinette’s journey from wide-eyed Austrian ingénue, to excessive party-girl, to slowly maturing mother of two children and queen to the French head of state.

All considered though, it still feels one of Coppola’s least substantial films to date. While her postmodern, proto-It girl thesis is lightly amusing and somewhat permissible, it extracts 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 and ’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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