In her short life, Marie Antoinette was both adored and reviled. It's perhaps appropriate, therefore, that the most recent movie based on her life has garnered similarly split reactions. In its debut at France's Cannes Film Festival in May, media outlets reported audiences were split between boos and cheers—the revolutionists versus the royalists all over again.
As seen through Sofia Coppola's lens, one can imagine that Marie Antoinette would find all the hubbub amusing. Played by Kirsten Dunst, who manages the unique feat of being angular and cherubic at the same time, this Marie is full of naiveté, cheer, and courage. She is always in search of a good time, and I was quite often pulling for her to find it.
At 14, Marie was married to the 15-year-old boy who would later become King Louis XVI of France in order to stabilize and secure relations between her native Austria and the Gauls. But for a marriage quite literally dictated by politics, scant attention is paid to them in Marie Antoinette. Instead, we're entertained with the absurdity and frivolity of life at Versailles for the young bride—the gossip, the odd customs such as the dressing ceremony every morning that allowed the ladies of the court to dress the queen-to-be, and the ongoing attempts to consummate her marriage. The king-to-be, played perfectly by Jason Schwartzman, was quite shy.
The French government allowed Coppola and her team to shoot the film at Versailles; the sets are ornate, the costumes flamboyant, the props splendid—a visual feast. The prop budget for cake alone must have been steep—not only a reference to her famous non-quote, but perhaps also a sort of nod to Marie's high spending ways.
The script is informed largely ...1
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