Marie Antoinette (DVD)

Its rather fitting that Gang of Four’s song “Natural’s Not In it” open’s Sofia Coppola’s new movie because, well, it’s as unnatural as sculling a 4-litre bottle of morphine mid-way through an uncomplicated pregnancy.


Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rose Byrne, Marianne Faithful, Steve Coogan, Rip Torn, Molly Shannon, Danny Huston, Judy Davis, Shirley Henderson

“Letting everyone down would be my greatest unhappiness” – Marie Antoinette (channelling Sofia Coppola)

Its rather fitting that Gang of Four’s song “Natural’s Not In it” open’s Sofia Coppola’s new movie because, well, it’s as unnatural as sculling a 4-litre bottle of morphine mid-way through an uncomplicated pregnancy.

One can’t help but think that Sofia’s filmmaking motivation is to go against the grain, and in turn, do whatever her famous filmmaking Pop – Francis Ford Coppola, of “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” – wouldn’t. Though her previous efforts, “The Virgin Suicides” and “Lost in Translation” have been remarkable affairs, they’ve also been much more radical efforts – a flaming double-salted margarita to his tall glass of wine, if you will. And with “Marie Antoinette”, she again dispels any rumours that Daddy’s working second-unit with a movie that’s as wild as a mountain cat, and as original as the Macarena.

Like watching The Biography Channel whilst slipping a cut of ecstasy, “Marie Antoinette” is a little bit period piece, part commercial for an impending CD soundtrack and the feeling of being on a whacked-out trip. It’s one of the most entertaining and hippest old-style yarns since Bazz Luhrmann robbed our tongues with “Romeo & Juliet” (1996).

This is the true (well, true but tweaked) story of troubled teenage royal, Austrian Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst), who at the age of 14 found herself betrothed to King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). From essentially the moment she stepped into her frigid new husband’s bed, everyone at Versailles, the lavish royal court near Paris, looked down upon Marie and his or her dislike escalated into a warped representation of who she really was. (And, as history reminds us, they had her head for it).

If a well-detailed and exhaustive account of Marie Antoinette is what you’re after – don’t look here. Coppola merely skims the Queen’s eventful life (including such eventful moments as the infamous ‘Affair of the Necklace’ incident), instead zoning in more so on the vibrant personality that she was, rather than the prolific incidents that ultimately shaped her. In some respects, its as if Coppola doesn’t know how to write great big chunky lines of dialogue or better still, isn’t quite sure yet how to abridge one’s life into celluloid, so just avoids the difficult aspects of filmmaking all together.

On the other hand, Coppola again proves what a stunning visual eye she has – and the welcome audacity to do something different. The film is an absolute cavalcade of colours and craziness, sometimes resembling what John Hughes might’ve done if he had gotten his hands on Shakespeare. The way she uses modern-day music – its used sparingly, so don’t panic purists! – to add bounce to the scenes is truly inspired. All in all, she paints a beautiful picture.

As evidenced by “Suicides” and “Translation”, Coppola also knows how to cast a film. Here she’s rounded up a wild group that features some rather astonishing and brave choices (including comedienne, Molly Shannon, who plays it rather straight; as well as Steve Coogan, likewise not playing it for laughs for a change) but also some commanding picks, too.

Though she never has to do anything too emotionally draining (in another movie, she would’ve – because Antoinette’s life only went from worse to unimaginable), the beautiful Kirsten Dunst immerses herself in the role of the wild royal – and gives a relatively credible and likeable performance throughout. Despite the script’s flaws, its lead takes what she’s been given and goes for it – resulting in one of the Dunst’s best performances of her career; as well as one of the most memorable. No less grand are Jason Schwartzman as the long-suffering and uncommunicative dauphin; the always-underrated Rip Torn as King Louis XV; and briefly, rising newcomer Danny Huston as Antoinette’s regal, but caring brother.

You wouldn’t be able to answer a pop quiz on her life having seen the film, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a blast watching it.

DVD extras include deleted scenes (I tell ya, I’ll still never fathom the appeal of these things); a behind-the-scenes featurette (interesting enough) and a ‘Cribs with Louis XVI’ featurette (yep, worth a look!).

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris