Marie AntoinetteLet Them Eat Cake!
The moment I saw the poster bearing the name Marie Antoinette, I knew I had to watch the movie. What drew my attention further was the fact that this is director Sophia Coppola’s project and that it was based on Lady Antonia Fraser’s account. Lady Antonia Fraser is the name behind one of my favorite books of all time, Mary Queen of Scots. She had interesting perspectives on many speculations regarding controversial historical figures and though I had not read her biography of Marie Antoinette, I had been curious as to how the film would turn out. After all, Lady Fraser would have produced an intriguingly seductive manuscript. With an actress the caliber of Kirsten Dunst portraying the flighty queen and a director as noteworthy as Coppola manning the helm, one would really have high expectations.
My disappointment, however, was palpable through half of the showing. Kirsten Dunst was very effective as the vulnerable Marie Antoinette. That much was established from the beginning. You can really imagine how frightening it is to be a cloistered fifteen year old that suddenly gets yanked from the comforts of her home so that she can marry a foreign dauphin. She had to adjust to the stuffy culture, deal with gossip, and learn to live with the fact that her husband would have nothing to do with the marriage bed. The pressure to produce an heir was apparently nerve-wracking, as she knew that her place would never be secure if she couldn’t accomplish her duties as the future queen. Letters from her concerned mother did not help.
The magic stopped at a certain point. At the beginning, there were times when the pace dragged itself and you’d wonder how people of that era lived without TV, PS2 and laptops. It felt authentic because you know that people had longer attention spans then. The mood, however, would be completely obliterated by the funky music. There I was, feeling sorry for Marie Antoinette when this noisy, ear-piercing sound, which pretends to be music, suddenly assaulted my auditory canal. I have nothing against rock or country music being used in a historical film, but they could’ve at least used songs that did not grate on the ears. Did they really have to choose artists that wail like they were going to be guillotined the next day?
After Marie Antoinette dealt with her insecurities, the pace ran marathons. The annoying “music” ran with it. The transitioning became abrupt and viewers weren’t given time to digest the flurry of events that unfolded. The ending was anti-climactic, but it wasn’t the good kind of anti-climactic. There had been no proper build up so it came off as weak.
Historians worth their salt would, of course, know that the royal couple would be beheaded and their children sent to prison. I didn’t really expect to see it here, but the movie could’ve done better if they had come up with a more powerful ending. Anything besides the scene where the royal family just stared at each other would’ve been a vast improvement.
One good thing I can say about Marie Antoinette is that it’s a visual treat. Foodies, like myself, would drool at the cakes, pies, baguettes, macarons and hors d’oeuvres. Now, if you start wondering how the women stay fit despite their calorie bingeing, you can always look at the clothes. Those exquisite fineries, in all their vibrant glamour, should weigh at least a hundred pounds. How’s that for daily weight-lifting?