I can officially give out the award for most wrongly bashed and/or misunderstood film of the year to Sofia Coppola's exquisite [i]Marie Antoinette[/i], which is as rebellious as its trapped but endlessly gleeful protagonist. I will never be able to understand why there have been so many people turned off by this film, and simply because of its incorporation of contemporary pop songs laced through key moments of the heiress' short life. Why does it have to be this way? Why can't a film like this one, which for once dares to offer more of what we're not used to seeing (and have never seen for that matter) be heralded for both its attempt at originality, and more for its accomplishment of that task. This is an ultimate motion picture experience and even though I can just sense it will be left in the ditch as far as any type of recognition on all ends of film are concerned, maybe it's something Coppola envisioned anyway, secretly desiring it to come and go, like Antoinette herself did...with only the ones that care to take the time and appreciate it all left to be fully rewarded.
The ravings could start anywhere for a film as sublime as this, but I must first give my kudos to the actress who I can now call a talent, Kirsten Dunst. I have not found a way to really like any role she's taken to this point, but the closest I've came is in Coppola's debut film, [i]The Virgin Suicides[/i], and Michel Gondry's [i]Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind[/i]. She was almost good in those two films, but there has always been something about her that I just couldn't grab on to. That is until now. Dunst is absolutely fascinating from the first frame on, never waiving an ounce of focus throughout the picture. She is believable as a 14-year old, lost Austrian girl who is trotted to France and put in as pressure-filled a situation as there could be in that time, marrying Louis XVI and being expected to carry on a long line of royalty in the future. There is nothing she can do to let her adolescence flow in a normal way, even if it means wanting to keep her faithful old dog. She is in a world that has incarcerated her and she can do nothing to try and pop her way out of the bubble, so she simply decides to live in it as best as she can. This is what Coppola's film is about, and nothing more. It is not a history lesson on the trials and tribulations of what it was like to be a ruler, it's more like an ultimate attempt at coming-of-age in a time and place and situation that does everything in its power to prevent you from doing it yourself. It's only three films into her directing career and Coppola has already become a master, at least in my opinion. Working with nearly all of the same people that she has in the past, it is obvious that she gets the best out of her surrounding partners, a lot of it having to do with mutual feelings toward whatever their working on, friendship, and more with each passing project. Always there to do a great job is the director of photography, Lance Acord, who brings to life Coppola's vision in a major way in every single second of every frame. Together with the unbelievable set and costume design, the cinematography makes for some of the most wonderful images ever put to the screen. That is something everyone should agree with whether they like the film as a whole or not.
It was only a matter of time before we were going to see Coppola's cousin, Jason Schwartzman, appear in one of her films. The wait is very much worth it here, where we find him flawlessly playing the part of the naive and sexually uptight Louis XVI. This actor has slowly been developing from a good one to a great one, slipping into roles that fit him more and more as the years go on. In the many scenes where we find the young married couple trying to produce another generation to the French legacy in their heavily guarded bed, their is an amazing mixture of poignancy and humor. The two lead actors play their parts perfectly, both deserving of nominations. The focus on the vulnerability sparked by their youth is uncanny, especially in the bedroom scenes for Schwartzman, and in every scene for Dunst. There are supporters who liven it up as well, like Rose Byrne as Antoinette's vibrant equal who is at her side on her many rambunctious escapades. She handles the part brilliantly, taking certain scenes and running with them, really making the most of her small role. The always fun to watch Asia Argento plays the part of Rip Torn's Louis VX's mistress, and these two are very amusing together. Argento in particular is extremely good in another of the film's modest roles, with vintage, snappy moments that she's so accustomed to delivering. Among the others along the way is the great Danny Huston as Antoinette's brother, who has the smallest of small roles but makes himself memorable. There is also Judy Davis just being her good old self, Molly Shannon in something worthwhile for a change, and the always lovable actors who appear together quite a bit in films, Shirley Henderson and Steve Coogan, with Henderson as humurous as always. Coogan, however, is as restrained as he's ever been, playing the go-between, sort of messenger that converses with everyone involved. The whole experience with[i] Marie Antoinette[/i] is flawless, a wonder for the eyes, ears, and mind. I felt like a more complete person after seeing this film, like I had been blessed with getting the chance to see a work of art like it in a theater setup. It goes without saying, but this is one of the year's best.