2006-11-10 / Columnists


'Marie Antoinette' - Clueless In 18th Century Versailles
Review By Robert Snyder

Watching "Marie Antoinette" about the ultimate pampered rich girl, one can't help but compare the tragic French teen queen to the film's creator, writer/director Sofia Coppola.

The empty-headed movie about the clueless young queen spares no expense, production-wise. The art direction and costume design are wondrous. It's great to be Executive Producer Francis Ford Coppola's daughter, who miraculously scored a screenplay Oscar for her vacuous Bill Murray-Scarlett Johansson movie, "Lost in Translation."

Opening with a Ramones-fast rock song, "Natural's Not in It" by Gang of Four, "Marie Antoinette" seems as far removed from 18th century Versailles as is Amy Heckerling's "Clueless." In fact, as played by Kirsten Dunst, the well-meaning, lusting-for-life, but incredibly isolated Marie could have been in the adolescent rich-kids comedy. She arrives for an arranged marriage to probably gay, soon-to-be King Louis XVI (King Coppola's nephew Jason Schwartzman), and must give up all things Austrian (her native country), including her beloved pooch, Mops. Her chaperone, the Comtesse de Noailles (Judy Davis) tells her, "You can have as many French dogs as you like."

The central (and only) plot line concerns international pressure on the young couple to produce an heir to the French throne.

This is a problem, because pudgy Louis is known to have more interest in stable boys than Marie's body. If no heir is produced, she may be sent back to Austria, the marriage annulled. As the starving masses are heading toward revolution and Marie's eventual beheading, a return to Austria may have been a better option for the cake-eating Queen. (Incidentally, according to Ms. Coppola, the infamous "let them eat cake" remark was a result of bad press and not an authentic Antoinette line.)

The film plods from protocol to parties. An affair (Marie's) with a handsome Swedish officer is thrown in, along with the birth of two children (Louis', maybe). Then, an element of historical tension intrudes when the rebellious masses storm the palace, the King and Queen barely escaping in time. As everyone knows, they finally fatally face the guillotine. But, we don't get to see that scene. Strange. It's like a movie about the Titanic, minus the sinking.

I guess a royal decapitation would have been too upsetting for Queen Sofia.

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