Written and directed by Academy Award(r) winner Sofia Coppola (2003, Best Writing, Lost In Translation), Marie Antoinette is an electrifying yet intimate re-telling of the turbulent life of history's favorite villainess. Kirsten Dunst portrays the ill-fated child princess who married France's young and indifferent King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). Feeling isolated in a royal court rife with scandal and intrigue, Marie Antoinette defied both royalty and commoner by living like a rock star, which served only to seal her fate.
While much was made of the fact that Marie Antoinette
elicited boos at Cannes, the many favorable reviews attracted less attention. Inspired by Antonia Fraser's biography, Sofia Coppola fashions a portrait that's just as dreamy as The Virgin Suicides
, her first literary adaptation, and the Oscar-winning Lost in Translation
. Set to a soundtrack of post-punk (a conceit that adds more interest than resonance), the teenaged Marie (Kirsten Dunst, quite good) may be shallow, but she's rarely unsympathetic. The story begins in the late-18th century as the Austrian Archduchess agrees to marry Louis-Auguste (Jason Schwartzman). After bidding adieu to her mother, Maria Theresa (Marianne Faithfull), she travels to France, where King Louis XV (Rip Torn) sets the rules--and the list is endless (Judy Davis' Comtesse de Noailles is the primary enforcer). As for the Dauphin, he's just a boy, really, with more interest in his key collection than their marriage bed. Should Marie produce an heir, it might be enough to sustain her--since life is nothing but an endless shopping spree--but clouds gather on the horizon as an impoverished populace rises up against their extravagant leaders. Coppola merely suggests what happens next, although history paints a darker picture. Filmed in and around the Chateau of Versailles, Marie Antoinette
is a riot of rustling gowns, sparkling jewels, and Manolo Blahnik-designed shoes. To say that style trumps substance does its maker a disservice, but the look of the thing does leave the deepest impression. --Kathleen C. Fennessy