“Marie Antoinette”, left me fielding requests from my ears and brain to be strapped to excessive levels of dynamite and ignited. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, “Marie Antionette” gives us another example of why it is rarely a good idea to have all of the ideas coming from one person.
Marie Antoinette, Kirsten Dunst’s character, an Austrian Arch Duchess, is married off to the Crowned Prince of France, Louis XVI. Antoinette settles into her life of luxury, opulence and misery. Longing for a child or even sex with her husband, Antoinette waits for years trying to get her husband to consummate her marriage. As the whole country gets angry with her for not getting pregnant, she continues to spend as if there is no end.
Sofia Coppola foregoes any actual attempts to creatively show Marie Antoinette’s spending sprees and instead inserts a solid hours worth of poorly edited spending montages into the movie. Feathers, fabric, rows and rows of shoes, discussions about trees, and of course, opulent food being indelicately eaten by an endless number of royals and nobility is supposed to add to the enjoyment of the movie? Only if I’m watching television and I don’t have a Tivo to weed out the late 1700’s commercials. Their natural annoyances aside, they are splattered through the movie like Sofia just threw beans on the plot board.
The music in the movie was one of the chief complaints of both my brain and my ears. The music, 21 century rock-ska-garbage that takes you completely out of the royal propriety mood and into the “hey, pull up your pants, whipper snapper” feeling. I felt like someone came by with a nun’s paddle and hit me aside the head, completely removing me from the movie and into being perfectly aware of every filling I’ve ever had. It’s eye rolling ridiculousness.
Kirsten Dunst gives a notably un-royal performance as the dutchess, princess, queen person. Contrary to her acting coach’s teaching, crying is more than opening your mouth and shaking your shoulders. I expected tears to comically jump off her face sideways. I didn’t believe her acting when she was happy either. She would wander with her friends through the castle gossiping. No one told Dunst that she was supposed to be interested in what she was saying or what her friends were saying. Unfortunately, Kirsten Dunst has about 90 percent of the face time, stunting the movie’s potential tremendously.
Kirsten Dunst isn’t the only actor whose performance leaves something to be desired. The entire cast’s portrayal of nobility rivaled a high school play. The characters stopped just short of laying their hands, palm up, over their foreheads and sighing deeply. The only exception was Steve Coogan. He played Ambassador Mercy with the dignity and regality necessary for a man in his position.
There is one saving grace for “Marie Antoinette.” If you watched the movie on mute your experience is exponentially better. Marie Antoinette is filled with beautiful sets, costumes, fabrics, and scenery. Even the carriage she comes from Austria to France in is sheer eye candy. The montages are annoying but they are wonderfully shot. The costumes have a luxurious quality. The embroidery on some of the dresses is so ornate it seems you could feel the texture if you reached out. Pay attention of the costumes and set in the masquerade ball. There is a wonderful attention to detail. The pastel colors Sofia Coppola dressed her characters and sets with give a feminine feel to the entire movie. This would be an excellent movie if there was as much attention to the acting, writing and directing as it does to the visuals.
The writing in “Marie Antoinette” was adolescent. There are extraneous characters, sub plots that go no where, and millions of loose ends left at the end of the movie. Sofia Coppola’s presentation of the story of this fascinating historical figure is so incredibly off the mark, if she were playing bar darts she would hit the bartender in the leg with her dart.
Watch “Marie Antoinette” with the mute button on. Trust me, you’ll be better off that way!