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Marie Antoinette

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Judy Thorburn

Marie Antoinette

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"MARIE ANTOINETTE" - THE GIRL JUST WANTED TO HAVE FUN

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

Who was Marie Antoinette? According to what I was taught in world history class back in school, the late 18th century French Queen was remembered for her nasty quote, “Let them eat cake” in referring to the people of her nation that were going through hard times and were suffering and hungry. Unhappy with their monarch, the people reacted by revolting and eventually had her beheaded. One can only assume that the wife of King Louis XVI was not a very likeable person, to put it mildly. As a self-indulgent royal who couldn’t care less about her subjects it appeared like she probably got what she deserved. But, did she really utter those words? Recent research suggests that she never did. Moreover, there was supposedly another, more sympathetic side of the ill-fated Queen according to a 2002 biographical novel written about her.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola is the filmmaker responsible for this revisionist version of Marie Antoinette’s life, her follow-up to the film Lost In Translation that won her the Oscar for best original screenplay. Based on the book “Marie Antoinette: The Journey” by Antonia Frasier, Coppola presents the teenage royal, in no way evil, but as a misunderstood young woman who did the best she could considering the life she was thrust into. Is having everything at your beck and call and living a life of luxury a bad thing? Well, maybe when you consider strict rules, protocol, constant scrutiny, and being secluded from the rest of the world as part of the scenario. Everything comes with a price, even if you are married to a King.

Here are some facts. Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) was born into a royal bloodline. Her mother, Empress Maria Teresa of Austria (portly, aged English pop icon, Marianne Faithful, almost unrecognizable from the way she looked in the 60’s) arranged the marriage of daughter Marie Antoinette to the Dauphin, Louis of France (Sofia’s cousin, Jason Schwartzman) as a political move to secure harmony between the nations. At only fourteen years old and betrothed to the young man, the future King Louis XVI, Marie left her homeland and was sent to Versailles, to prepare for the upcoming nuptials, which meant ridding herself of anything Austrian, including her clothes and beloved pet pug. She was a naïve teenager who, from the moment she arrived in France was not only ensconced in an ornate environment filled with lavish clothing, jewelry, sinful culinary delights but also vicious gossipers who were eager to tear her, as a foreigner, apart. But it was those exquisite goodies, shopping, and partying that provided great distractions for the coming of age teen.

Louis was cordial to Marie, but more interested in going on hunting trips with his male companions or entrenched in his locks and key hobby than spending time and showing affection to his bride. His lack of sexual interest in Marie left her in an unconsummated marriage for 7 years before her older brother Emperor Joseph II (Danny Huston) visited and had a chat with the King about matters in the bedroom. Marie soon gave birth to a daughter and later a male heir. But, with Marie taking refuge in the arms of her dashing lover, Swedish Count Fersen (Jamie Dornan), whom she met at a masquerade ball, its easy to question who might have actually fathered her children.

The entire movie is like a sneak peak inside Marie Antoinette’s diary that examines her loneliness, confusion, desire to please her demanding mother who urged her in letters to produce an heir, and to secure her place in the royal court. But, never do we get to see what is happening in the “real world” outside the palace or away from Marie’s country retreat. According to what is now known, Marie was kept isolated from the common people and was oblivious to what was going on beyond the palace gardens. And that is where this film falters. Devoid of any politics, mention of the unrest among her people and the revolution comes towards the end so as to give a hint as to Marie’s impending fate, although we never get to witness her demise.

What the film lacks in dramatic plot it makes up as an exquisite looking period piece, with its colorful, gorgeous sets and lavish costumes, although the New Wave/post modern music (Bow Wow Wow’s I Want Candy, for example) is certainly anachronistic to the era, but meant to resonate with today’s young audiences.

Trust me if I say Marie Antoinette comes across as a mix of Paris Hilton and Princess Diana. In other words, picture a self-absorbed extravagant party girl who underneath that entire shiny exterior was a scared young woman in a passionless marriage. Sound familiar?

Dunst is fine as Marie, although there are other actresses who just as well could have filled those shoes. The international cast includes American Rip Torn as the lusty grandfather King, Australian Judy Davis, a bit over the top and quite humorous as La Comtess de Noailles and scene stealing, Italian beauty Asia Arsento (who, in this film, looks a lot like a raven haired, Uma Thurman) as granddaddy’s brazen, uncouth mistress, Madame du Barry. Only former SNL cast member, Molly Shannon as Aunt Victoire is terribly miscast.

The question is will audiences be satisfied with a personal portrait rather than a political drama? For what it is worth, I was hungry to see the unrest in the country that led to her arrest, her imprisonment and march to the guillotine depicted. But nope, Coppola doesn’t go there. Whether she made the comment about eating cake or not, I would have been satisfied with a meaty slice of Marie Antoinette’s life that showed conflict between her and her countrymen.

I guess you could say, I have one thing in common with Marie Antoinette. We both didn’t know what we were in for. The difference is, she was stuck in her predicament while I could easily walk out and not be on the chopping block.