Coppola’s Take on Life of Legendary Monarch Flops

“Marie Antoinette” is visually beautiful and as shallow as a two foot pond, unfortunately the film falls very short.

Director, Sofia Coppola’s latest film focuseson the begining of Marie’s marriage to the start of the revolution. Coppola tries to paint a picture of a young woman who means well and is desperate to please those around her and not as the legend who allegedly said “Let them eat cake” in regards to the starving people of France. Instead Marie comes across as completely airheaded, self-indulgent and spoiled.

The film is stunning to watch and it clearly has the director’s own spin on the life of the infamous monarch. Set in the Palace of Versailles, Lance Acord’s cinematography seems to paint three dementional portraits of 18th century France. Beautiful backdrops, brightly colored costumes and pastries that seem to be out of this world are constantly on camera. It seems as though the focus is on what they ate and wore instead of what they felt and did.

Kirsten Dunst does a good job of showing Marie’s innocence. When Marie is separated from her mother in Austria and sent to France she is only 14. She is naA_ve and is showing her friends pictures of Louis (Jason Schwartzman) and giggling like a school girl.

When she arrives at the border she is greeted by the Comtesse de Noailles, played by a stern, but likeable Judy Davis. Marie, having no idea of French customs, hugs the Comtesse who seems uncomfortable, but pleased at the same time. In order to become a true French woman she is stripped naked of her Austrian clothing and given new French clothing. Everything Austrian about her must be left behind, her clothing, her friend and even her dog, named Mops, as she embarks on her new life as the Dauphine of France.

In France there is a small glimpse into Louis XVI’s life as a young man. Louis is portrayed as a shy, insecure teenager who is just as nervous about his marriage to Marie as she is.

When Marie finally arrives she is introduced to King Louis XV, her future grandfather-in-law, played by an intimidating Rip Torn. She then meets her future husband Louis XVI for the first time. Within hours of her arrival to Versailles, she is whisked off and she and Louis are married in a lavish ceremony in the Chapel Royal, attended by hundreds of people.

The morning after their wedding, Marie wakes up with Louis nowhere in sight and is greeted by Comtesse de Noailles once again along with twenty or so women of the royal court. Marie is informed that she will no longer dress herself; in fact, she does not have to do anything for herself ever again. After this scene Dunst seems to give up any attempt to be sympathetic to the audience. She talks, but she does not seem to be saying much. The charismatic and talented actress that was seen in her other film with Coppola, “The Virgin Suicides” has disappeared.

Dunst plays the role of the poor little rich girl. Venting her sexual frustrations with Louis who would not have sex with her, Marie begins shopping excessively, buying wigs and dresses and hundreds of pairs of shoes to a soundtrack consisting of Bow Wow Wow, New Order and the Strokes.

When King Louis XV dies, instead of Marie becoming more mature she seems to regress. She shops, drinks and eats more. Her life is pure excess. Her character is not someone to identify with and it is not because of lack of dialogue in Coppolas’ script. Dunst fails to give a performance that connects with the audience. One is not aware of how she feels or what she thinks and when things begin to go wrong, it is impossible to feel for her.

At a masquerade ball, Marie meets a Swedish army official, Count Fersen, played by Jamie Dornan who does nothing more than fit the role of the pretty boy womanizer. This was an opportunity for Coppola to show Marie’s emotional side as she develops an affair with the Count. Coppola unfortunately seems to pass up on this chance. The passion and chemistry is lacking between Dunst and Dornan and their scenes together are lukewarm at best.

Ignoring the birth of Marie’s first child, Coppola instead chooses to focus on the beautiful scenery that Marie and her daughter are in, instead of their relationship. The birth of her second child, a boy, is also largely ignored with Coppola chosing to focus on the characters posing in lavish costumes for a painting instead of motherly bonding.

Coppola is in love with color and background, which is evident in “The Virgin Suicides” and “Lost in Translation”. With this film she focuses on the background instead of developing her characters.

When the Bastille is stormed by an angry French mob, Marie walks out and bows her head to the crowd. This seems to be Coppola’s attempt at giving the audience something to connect with.

Unfortunately, it is too late. The film ends abruptly with no emotional understanding or connection with Marie. Beautiful and vapid, like much of the characters, the film is all fluff, color and no substance.