Sofia Coppola takes on a historical character in Marie Antoinette, providing her own vision of the doomed Queen of France and the French Monarchy under the reign of Louis XVI, based upon the biography written by Antonia Fraser.
Kirsten Dunst, whom we ever so often remember with red hair for her Mary Jane Watson roles in the Spider-Man series, plays the titular role, bringing forth girly innocence, frustration and strength as her character develops through the course of the movie. Sofia Coppola clearly made this movie focused on events from her point of view, covering major incidents and happenings in her life.
I thought the first half of the movie was excellent, where Marie gets married to the Dauphin of France Louis XVI, a marriage of strategic importance to seal the Austrian and French alliance, but one which seems to be stuck in the ruts because of incompatibility. She likes theatre, he's into hunting. She's into fashion, and he's into locks and keys. Consummating their marriage is a problem, and remains a major obstacle and puts constant strain on Marie Antoinette, because without producing an heir to the throne, her position in the court is always precarious, not to mention, without influence to further advance Austrian interest.
But don't forget, she's but a teenager, and Sofia Coppola never fails to remind us of that - the difficulty of a young one living within the constricting protocols of a monarchy. And not to mention under public scrutiny all the time. Although a period movie, Coppola managed to bring forth the issues faced into current time, since the themes and events explored are quite similar to the contemporary era. The bitching, the rumour mongering, and the superficial small talk of people of perceived importance are nothing new in this day and age, and Marie more often than not is the favourite subject for the tabloids.
It's not all sympathetic to the character though, as her vices like gambling, drinking and rumoured dalliances with Count Fersen in her holiday home of Petit Trianon are played out, together with her rather callous attitude toward what was happening to the commonfolk. While politics is rarely touched upon, the portrayal of the King's handling of foreign policy for face rather than taking care of his subjects is probably one of the fundamental contributing factor to its downfall, and France is shown to be slowly bankrupted while sending aid to American for the revolutionaries to fight against the British, unaware of growing resentment in home soil.
The second half felt more of a rush job, with Marie's spiral into unpopularity with her perceived extravagant decadence. It's a reminder of how someone's image can be greatly tainted by uncorrected, vicious rumours, and when the power of the people is at full force, you can't help but submit when all is lost. Some have questioned why the movie didn't pursue all the way until the final demise of Marie Antoinette, but frankly, looking at the film's treatment of the character, there's actually no need to, and all in all, quite a balanced presentation on how an historical character is brought to life on screen.
With beautiful costumes, rich colours, and sets based within the actual Palace of the Versailles, it's a pity that this movie did not make it to our local screens, and I believe watching it on the big screen will make all the difference. For those who want to take a look at the much talked about easter egg in the movie, the Converse shoes are shown at the 55:48 mark.
You can read more about the real Marie-Antoinette from this Wikipedia entry.
The Code 3 DVD by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment comes in English, Chinese and Korean Menus. Visual transfer in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is pristine, important to bring out the colours and the scale of the Versailles set. Audio is in 5.1 Dolby Digital, in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese Chinese and Korean, and Scene Selections is available over 24 chapters.
The Special Features contain the Making of, two deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer (2:30) and the teaser trailer (1:45). The Making of Marie Antoinette (25:57) is the main feature in the specials, and the first thing that is presented, is the incredible amount of hairspray used to style Kirsten's hair. Expect the usual cast and crew interviews, and their reaffirmation of Sofia's interpretation of the character, and her vision. Subtitles except English are available.
Two deleted scenes are included. The first is "Scene 88 - Second Opera" (2:15) and the second is "Scene 125 - Return from Petit Trianon" (1:30). There's no commentary by the director why these were removed, but there's a provision of a one page text prior to showing the scenes on the rationale for their removal.
Lastly, there's a "Cribs with Louis XVI" featurette (3:50) where Jason Schwartzman brings the audience on a tour of some of the rooms in the Versailles used in the movie. Little overdone in MTV styled editing and language.
To wrap things up, there's a selection of trailers from the following movies included in the DVD - All the King's Men, Running with Scissors, Stranger Than Fiction, Casino Royale and Art School Confidential.