Doctor's Review of Marie Antoinette
"This is ridiculous."
"This, madame, is Versailles."
Visually sumptuous examination of the famous Austrian-turned-French queen to Louis XVI. We see her life through her perspective and she is cast in a rather sympathetic light, even explaining away her infamous phrase "Let them eat cake" as a fabrication by an adversarial press. As shown here, Marie is oblivious to the plight of the common man because of her complete separation from them - all she has known since birth is a world of opulence and extravagance, far far removed from working class life in her palaces and country estates. In fact the only hints of the squalor and unrest lurking in the lands beyond Versailles are filtered through her dignitaries.
It is this opulence that really gives this film its color, figuratively and literally. Eye-popping costumes, sets, and location shooting lets us experience the lifestyle of perhaps the most indulgent ruling class since the late Roman Empire. The camera lingers tantalizingly over the clothes, shoes, jewels, pastries, and assorted riches of the last of the Bourbons - truly it made me wonder why it took this long for a revolution to happen.
Kirsten Dunst leads a peculiarly selected cast. Jason Scwartzman as Louis XVI? Rip Torn as Louis XV? Molly Shannon and Asia Argento as a courtesans? Obviously Sofia Coppola was more interested in giving her characters a particular feel instead of historical authenticity, and I must say that the naturalness these actors brought was a welcome injection into a period drama, roles that are usually reserved for stuffily dry British stage actors. I also agree that if you can't have your cast speak the native language, then don't have them speak English with a fake French accent, that is usually a recipe for ridicule.
But by far Coppola's boldest choice was to include rock music on the soundtrack! Crazy, right? There is plenty of period music with string ensembles and opera pieces but only when they are part of the scenes. Any overlaying music uses a varied rock'n'roll soundtrack which is very precisely selected so that the lyrics express the underlying emotions of the scenes. Surprisingly, this daring technique worked very effectively for me.