Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The intensely lush scenery, costumes and details is a definite drawcard for this movie. The story was rather slight however, touching upon Marie Antoinette’s life from her marriage through to the start of French Revolution in between magnificent scenery vistas. Whilst this portrayal is light it at least gives her the benefit of being an able noble should she turn her mind to it, the French court manages to turn her into a vain, fashion and party loving woman.
It starts briefly in Austria with a childlike young woman of 15, continues to her exchange with the French representatives where she is affectionate and caring and therefore seen as unsophisticated. From there she goes to meet her bridegroom, who is shy and retiring from all but his hunting companions. Her introduction into the French court is hostile and thence off to her marriage bed, watched by all. Her bridegroom is innocent to the ways of women and their marriage is unconsummated for an embarrassingly long time. The highly critical French court is impossible to win over, apart from a brief moment or two, and always see her as an unwelcome foreigner.
The old ruler dies and Louis becomes king and Marie Antoinette queen at the tender age of 19. During this time she copes by becoming rather frivolous and eager to only have a good time (oh, and totally addicted to shoes!). Eventually the couple manage to cement their marriage and seem content with each other and their new daughter. Marie Antoinette is gifted by Louis with a country estate where she relaxes and softens and has a brief affair with a Swedish Count.
Eventually her return to Versailles is necessary but she finds she is no longer even briefly esteemed by any but her close companions. She has two sons, one of which survives before there is obvious rebellion by the population and comments are attributed to her that she doesn’t actually make (eg. ‘Let them eat cake’). She and Louis show surprising backbone by wishing to stay with their children in the palace after all the other nobility has sought refuge elsewhere. The movie concludes with their eventual carriage ride away from Versailles to probable imprisonment.
Dialogue is short and there is the odd moment of dizzying photography when the camera is supposed to be from a person’s view, bobbing up and down, making it hard to focus or enjoy. The music varies from classical to rock but it works well.
Kirsten Dunst makes a radiant Marie Antoinette and one with much joie de vivre, albeit with an American accent. Highlights include Judy Davis brilliantly playing a Countess whose job it is to ensure Marie Antoinette does all the correct things. She manages to look outraged, frantic and sublimely in control according to the role’s requirements. She is one of the rare actors that can portray a multitude of words and gestures with just her look. Steve Coogan entertainingly plays Ambassador Mercy who struggles to keep Marie Antoinette on the straight and narrow path. Rose Byrne plays a lighthearted Duchesse who although frowned upon, is immediately likeable.
A magnificent visual feast and a nice, lighter take on the ill-fated queen. You can't help but be a bit annoyed by her, whilst still feeling sorry for her!