Sofia Coppola’s filmic biography of Marie Antoinette is neither as edgy and interesting as one might hope, or so flat out bad and horrible to trigger a forceful “Mon dieu!” More, it’s a shallow, more traditional historical period film, addressing that shallowness, quite spending a fair amount of energy on shallowness….but what does that analysis of shallowness unveil? I guess that the point is that the traditional criticism of Marie Antoinette was that she was a shallow, out-of-touch, naive little girl who ended up being lynched as a symbol of all that was wrong with monarchy in France. But more recent depiction in biographies have attempted to find “the girl” behind the reality, and for Coppola, that girl is basically a 20th Century all-American girl who likes boys, parties, and dressing up a lot.
Peppered with a very poppy-New Wave 1980’s soundtrack, alongside of more traditional and time-appropriate classical strains, the film definitely attempts to draw parallels between the then and the now,….though is that the now of the 1980’s?
There is also a great deal of focus on the rituals and absurdities of court life and significant attention as well to the equally complex wardrobes that accompanied that life. Of course, the clothes, the shoes, the food and the decor are fetishized heartily even in today’s standards. The opulence and overkill therein are a deep part of this film. And Marie represents a good-old American girl who just wants to cut loose. At one point she even asks for a more simple dress for her to run around and frolic in the wildflowers. Where was Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”? That should have fit rightly on the soundtrack. What? Is that any more obvious than playing Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” while showing a montage of fancy shoes, candies and desserts?
And why is she all-American? Kirsten Dunst is totally all-American. She screams it. She is played as a severe contrast to the more stately and traditional cast playing their court characters to the hilt in more classic modes. All I can guess is that this was meant to say something, to be an experiment. If all it’s saying is that she was a real girl with real sensations and beliefs and desires, I have to think that point is pretty lost. She’s the only modern thing in an anachronistic world. She is a-typical, doesn’t fit, and even though she’s mighty cute and sweeter than sweet, she’s still … I don’t know.
The thing is that this film isn’t awful. It’s entertaining at times, but mostly because I was wondering where it was going. Toward the latter part, though, I kept waiting for it to end and after several false fades-to-black, it finally did end.