Film Review: Marie Antoinette


Film: Marie Antoinette


Director: Sofia Copolla


Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn


Rating: 2.5/5


At 14, she became a bride. At 19, the queen. By 20, she was a legend, with the line, “Let them eat cake” credited famously to her. History books have been cruel to this teenage queen, and the film is the untold story of her other side.


As the story goes; betrothed to King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman), the naïve Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) is only 14. She is thrown into the opulent French court to smoothen relations between Austria and France. What can help best in this endeavour is a child born out of their union. But sadly, her husband’s failure lies in his inability to be sexually active with her for over seven years.


Alone and wandering, the young Marie Antoinette rebels against isolation, and in the process, becomes France’s most misunderstood monarch.


Inspired from Antonia Fraser’s novel Marie Antoinette, the story is an enchantment from start to finish. It traces her footsteps as the years hit her and tracks her understanding of the system and the court. Though it is an era based film, it is told with modern sensibilities, thus cutting down on the yawns.


But then, all this thought that has been put into the film, falls flat as none of it is consistent. Be it the music, the character actions or something as important as the narrative technique, none of it is cohesive. Somewhere down the line, the film begins to look and feel like an out and out chick flick. The historic beheading and the mob violence that engulfed her life is not told; instead, it has been conveniently masked with the change in attitude towards her by the subjects.


The film is crammed with too many details. What is extremely saddening is that the film is not embellished with interactions of the Queen and various other characters, which otherwise would have been the highlight of the film.


Copolla, who gave us the tasteful Lost in Translation, does not manage to tell the known tale drastically differently. The grandeur, styling, references are all period centric. On the other hand, shots, certain lines, mannerisms and use of popular music are seen as an effort to make it far more contemporary than it should be. It is in this mumble jumble of then and now that the film loses out.


The other loose end in the film is its editing – unjustified cuts and random ones plague the film. Clearly, there is too much to tell and a time constraint, but this is still no reason to chop sequences relating to time and actions.


But these are far too little things to be worried about; the film manages to be engaging and does well at being so. The minuses of the film subsequently translate into plusses to many, thus the vast area of interpretation the film offers makes it worth a watch. The treatment of popular music is superb; you just wish it was in uniformity.


A huge plus the film offers is Dunst, who plays the role of Marie Antoinette remarkably well.  The manner in which she executes the cold formalities and shows character growth is superb. Schwartzman as the King displays well the mundane actions of his character; however, he fails to deliver a recall worthy performance.


The only thing holding the film back is the lack of any marketing activity surrounding it. This might very well be a film that came and went, without collecting big at the box office.


Marie Antoinette is better seen than missed, make sure you watch this one for what it is worth.