In Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola's flare for visual sensuality hardly satisfies the public's craving for a humanized tale about the infamous and notoriously unsympathetic Queen of France. Though it may be that her self-absorbed stereotype is just more interesting, and the film does little to emphasize these true and more intriguing hardships. Instead, Marie Antoinette focuses on the extravagant details of her decadent, yet tedious, lifestyle. Oh, the ennui! Decapitate me now.
This is the story of an innocent political figure tried and beheaded by her constituents for neglecting to pay attention to the demise of France's empire, a no-no for any aspiring royal. But the epic story is unworthy of Coppola's lens, who in this respect takes few lessons from father's legacy. Sophia finds the endless pastries, shoes, dresses, wigs, puppies, and the four years Marie's child husband was afraid to touch her much more interesting. All is not lost, though. If you happen to be deaf, the sets and costumes make this a really fun movie deserving of all the Oscar buzz. (Maybe Marlee Matlin will give it her vote.)
Coppola surprised historians by casting her cousin, Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore), as the queen's husband, Louis XVI,. But Schwartzman adds a sense of warmth to an otherwise dull character. Endearingly, he fumbles through the role of child king while coping with a half-ass kind of love for the queen. In truth, Louis XVI suffered from Phimosis - a medical condition that prevents the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis from fully retracting, making an erection painful and impossible. Later in life, he elected to cut the prick and rise to the occasion. But the film ignores this embarrassing and telling conflict. Instead of sexless nights with the agony of an uncompromising erection, Coppola chalks the king's shortcomings (pun intended) to childish fears of sex. Scene after scene of Louis and Marie side by side without boinking finally reaches a climax with the oh-so predictable romantic comedy cliche: Louis finally mounts her, the lights go out, and we hear a faint, "Oh!"
Sofia must relate to the pampered damsels-in-distress type, all that criticism, all that spotlight. After all, she is a Coppola, and those horrible lusty scenes in Godfather III definitely inspired criticism of her "talent." But just as Ms. Antoinette fails to groom a kingdom of her own, Ms. Coppola, so far in her career, is just another lucky daughter with a one-hit-wonder on her resume.
Sofia blew her wad on Lost In Translation, which is really just the true story of how she lived with Spike Jonze during the shooting of Charlie's Angels, and how she dallied about with a famous older man rumored to have been Harrison Ford in her more than spare time. Now, that's a movie! But one has to question if the magic was Sofia's or the raw chemistry between greats, Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray.
Despite the punkish promos and bitchin' new wave soundtrack, Coppola's version of Marie Antoinette lacks edge and strays from telling any kind of story, as it strives to crowd-please with lavish costumes and sets, ironically mimicking the same attitude France's royalty had towards its own audience of ignored citizens. Don't be fooled by the preview in which Marie grimly slinks down a colorful wall - there's no real drama here. Her mom wrote another letter insisting she fuck her unwilling and uncircumcised king. Coppola's inability to tell a story repeats itself in Marie Antoinette after her poor adaptation of The Virgin Suicides to the screen in 1999, which also starred the limitedly talented and snaggle-toothed Kirsten Dunst. Coppola is more of a set designer and costumer than director, giving our eyes a feast while our curiosity starves for a hearty story. The most deflated scene comes after the queen has a lame affair with a hunky soldier, and she begs of the king as he plays cards, "May I be excused?" Kirsten rushes down the hall as The Strokes pump us up singing, "I wanna be forgotten and I don't wanna be reminded...!" The music misleads as we expect the queen to DO something exciting, when all she does is flop onto her bed grinning. I was sure she'd masturbate or SOMETHING - though royal to boot, she's still a woman. But nothing. And I have to pity poor Sofia in her lofty princess tower for not being able to conjure passion.
Even on the brink of The French Revolution - the mark on the timeline in which this film awkwardly stops - just as the starving peasants revolt against leaders who ignored their grievances until it fused into an angry mob, Coppola keeps her leading lady one-sided and voiceless. When the queen turns up on her balcony to bow to the angry mob, Coppola saw fit to withhold the queen's rousing speech that actually won over some of her angry subjects. It's not that Marie Antoinette treads lightly on this political warning - it doesn't tread there at all.
Take out the soundtrack, and Marie Antoinette is more like a picture book for the USWeekly subscriber, addicted to the Hollywood royalty of Paris Hilton, starving for a real story, but not knowing a true heroine even if it hit her in her empty head.
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