Pretty in Pink

by Ian T. McFarland on October 20, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Marie Antoinette
  • IMDb: link

Marie AntoinetteThis is what a film should look like.  Visually, it’s a cinematic treat in the purest meaning; a vacation for your eyes from the copious dull white streets of suburbia, the stacks of rows of white cubicles, the houses with white trim and white refrigerators.  Marie Antoinette is an assault on the visually dull, attacking the viewer with dulled but somehow vibrant colors that are all too often shunned from our modern world.

Marie (Kirsten Dunst) is just your average teenager.  She lives with her parents, loves her dog and has a prolific wardrobe to say the least.  Really, the only thing that sets her apart is that she marries a Prince and eventually becomes the Queen of France; but that’s it really.

Most of the film is a precursor to the Marie Antoinette that history books cover; the extravagant spender who eventually pays for telling her citizens to take a big bite of cake is hardly covered in the script, and is only relegated to the last act of the script.  History buffs might be disappointed initially, but the movie isn’t supposed to substitute a day in your high school European History class.  No, writer/director Sofia Coppola principally makes Antoinette about Marie, and what it’s like to be young with the world at your feet; not the economic downfall of a Nation.

Dunst isn’t one of our greatest actresses, and Antoinette does nothing to change that; but she gives about as good of a performance as one can without the word ‘Oscar’ being mentioned in reviews.  She shows us a young woman strung through the idiocies of Royalty convincingly enough, but the script never gives her a serious dilemma to have to pull through.  It’s conceivable that this role could have been a real breakthrough for Dunst had she been given juicier conflicts; but considering how the part is written, she still more than satisfies.

Which brings up the only real downfall of the film: nothing happens.  Don’t get me wrong, nothing never looked so thoroughly gorgeous before; but the limited dialogue never does much to create conflicts or an overall story.  There are strong characters, like Rip Torn‘s horny King Louis XV, or Jason Schwartzman‘s not-so-horny heir to the throne; but they’re just characters.  They start up small side stories that are good and fun while they last, but after they’ve surpassed their problems there’s a solid final 20 minutes where it feels as though nothing happens.

The supporting cast is magnificent, encircling the royal family with sycophants, gossipers and the greedy, all vying for the attention of their regal company.  It’s these characters that make Antoinette relatable to modern audiences – it’s not easy to make a film-goer feel at home in front of a screen decorated with more Gold than they’ve seen in their entire lives; but by surrounding the gold with realistic people, it’s easier to fall into the world of the 19th Century French Monarchy.

Another tool used to make the Château de Versailles feel like home, sweet home is Coppola’s choice of music.  You wouldn’t guess that many soundtracks out there boast the Strokes, New Order and Air, especially a film about an important historical figure – but it works.  The subtle, held back cinematography and direction match the muted guitars and simplistic but beating New Wave sounds that are synced to the look.

But the star of the film is the cinematography.  The film is so detailed, so convincing and so easy on the eyes that had every line of dialogue somehow been lost in the cutting room, Antoinette still might have worked as a film.  You won’t care half so much about listening to what Dunst is saying as you will about studying the walls that her words echo off of.

Along the same line, the Costumes add just as much flavor to the film.  The period clothing is just as ridiculous as it is gorgeous – with riffles, poofs and colors straight out of a box of Crayolas, you would never wear these outfits to even a costume party; but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t pieces of art in themselves that eyes will enjoy in any theater.

If, for some god-forsaken reason, they ever release a novelization of Antoinette, stay away from it.  It wouldn’t be much of a read, and would only last for around 30 light pages anyway.  But as a film, the sounds, acting and (especially) the visuals make for a film that would feel at home in any Cinematography classroom for a couple of lifetimes.  Long live the Queen.

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