I lost a great deal of respect for Sofia Coppola after seeing the endless, pointless and self indulgent girly picture disguised as historical epic, Marie Antoinette. In her previous films, such as The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation she seemed to have an original take on alienation and demonstrated an inspired hip sensitivity towards her subject matter. But after seeing her latest epic folly on the life of Marie Antoinette I started to wonder if Coppola’s previous successes were a simple fluke.
Coppola’s approach in re-inventing the historical epic by removing it from its time capsule and giving it a 21st century sensitivity could have worked but is poorly executed and after the first few minutes we come to realize that is completely irrelevant and boring. She uses a modern pop soundtrack, documentary style camera work and modern dialect to create a hyper-reality of The French Revolution era that resembles more like a parody on the life of Paris Hilton. This Marie Antoinette is depicted as a giggly, fashion obsessed party girl who’s main objective in life is to keep her social status and have fun while doing it. She’s got a triage of girl friends that sound like valley girls at the mall and an occasional boyfriend (when the king is not around). She also spends a great deal of the movie eating, drinking, and buying things.
It is true that in real life Marie Antoinette’s excesses were a major catalyst to her downfall, but there were other elements in the story that Coppola unwisely chooses to ignore (such as the political and moral issues of that time) that could have made a better and more interesting film. Instead, we get a dozen pictorial montages edited MTV style highlighting Coppola’s favorite tunes and Marie Antoinette’s shopping list and pastry obsessions. But even in this department Coppola fails miserably. She films Versailles as impersonal and ugly as a West Hollywood back alley. She manages to vulgarize French culture by taking creative license on ugly powder puff period costumes and a grotesque display of culinary horrors, not even worthy of a 3 year old birthday party.
Kirsten Dunst looks spectacular as Marie Antoinette, but has very little to do with the poor excuse of a script written by Coppola. Jason Schwartzman is rather effective as Louis the King, and for a while manages to develop a bit of a sweet chemistry with Kirsten Dunst that perhaps is the only accomplished aspect of the entire film.
The film was critically panned at the Cannes film festival and even at a 2 hour running time it feels like an eternity. There are much better ways to spend and afternoon and that includes watching “The Food Network”. So do yourself a favor and skip Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. I wish someone would have warned me.
The first American woman to be nominated for a best director Oscar, Sofia Coppola was born into a film making family, being the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, and she got her start in the business appearing in her father's films such as Rumblefish, Peggy Sue Got Married and, notoriously, The Godfather Part III.