This one is a slippery slope. It's PG-13. Fine. I can get behind that. But it is a PG-13 that teases nudity a lot. It's also fundamentally about sex through its almost lack of sexuality. I don't mean to sound like the snob I am, but this movie is very sexy despite the fact that it constantly stresses how almost nothing is going on. There are some pretty intense scenes despite this, but I think PG-13 is pretty accurate.
DIRECTOR: Sofia Coppola
My goodness, do I love this movie. This is another one of those treasured takes from my Thomas Video days. I watched it once when I worked there and then had it on as my background movie for a few of my shifts because of the killer soundtrack. I got it for my birthday this year and was puzzled by the box it came it. It looked super bootleg and pirated, but that's just because apparently it is released as part of the "Choice" collection. Movies that don't have enough support to constantly run a print of the movie practically get a burned version from Focus Features. That's kind of a bummer that this movie doesn't have the legs to permeate the pop culture consciousness as much as I think it does because this movie is absolutely phenomenal.
I don't know why, almost immediately before my 35th birthday, I had a need to own the Sofia Coppola movies I had seen previously. I think it was my viewing of The Godfather: Part III. I know that she's panned in that and, I can admit, she's not amazing. But then I thought about my experiences watching her films and I was just taken aback by the amount of talent she shows as a director. I honestly think that she is more talented than her father, and that's just me rattling the cinematic cages. But Sofia Coppola, for all of her pretension (WHICH I LOVE HER FOR!), is all about simplifying the narrative. Yeah, the movies are hipster movies. Get it out of your system and shut up for two seconds. Her movies are hipster, but they don't forget that they are ultimately human movies. Some people might see something like Marie Antoinette as a dumbed down version of history. I know that I just went on a rant about The Greatest Showman. I'm not sure what I understand about rewriting history. I don't know much about the real Marie Antoinette, but at least the film credited the book it was referencing throughout. What Marie Antoinette does is remind us that period dramas are ultimately human stories. Yes, it was an era of manners and fancy dress, but Marie Antoinette was first and foremost a girl who didn't know how the handle the position she was placed in. She makes all these choices that we don't often see in period pieces. She sometimes is wildly irresponsible, partying and gossiping when she should be following tradition. Sometimes she is a victim unable to advocate for herself. There's a lot going on there and that's where Sofia Coppola flies. She understands that the story of Marie Antoinette shouldn't be inaccessible, like every other narrative of the era ultimately is. Most movies tell about the past from a perspective of history. People in these stories don't know that they are in history. They are fools and morons like the rest of us. I love that. There's even a shot in the film, amongst all this attention to historical detail, that Coppola just has a straight up shot of Converse All Stars. C'mon. Marie Antoinette wasn't this great self-aware woman of history. She was a teenager who liked to party and had to try to seduce a guy who wasn't at all into her. The only difference is that there were genuine consequences if she failed to do so. That's super cool.
You know what else is super cool? The whole darn movie. As part of the Choice Collection, there were no subtitles. I was running on a treadmill when watching this movie, so I had to blast the movie pretty loud to hear every detail. Um, every time there was a music cue, Coppola decided to blast that music. There's no casual soundtrack to this movie. It is antagonistically anachronistic and I absolutely love it. There are some movies that try to feel punk and there are some movies that are honestly pretty punk. I love that Marie Antoinette might be one of the best paired movies with Sid and Nancy that I can think of. I know. Sid and Nancy weren't hipsters. Shut up, you button down Oxford wearing snob. Let people be hipsters! Geez. I honestly wanted to immediately recommend this to my former students. A lot of them want to be into hipster film really badly. They all saw The Grand Budapest Hotel and thought that they were instantly into hipster film. Hey, I can't throw them under the bus. I had the same reaction when I saw The Royal Tenenbaums for the first time. Marie Antoinette might be the next best step into the hipster movie pool. It is more of a dramedy than what Wes Anderson presents, but it still has that vibe to it. I'm not saying the movie isn't funny. It just doesn't have formal deliberate jokes like Wes Anderson's films. But it is the same amount of fun. That's something there, isn't it? Considering the topic of the story, it's odd to think of Marie Antoinette being an absolute blast of a movie. I'm not saying that you should drag those old costume dramas out into the streets and considering them boring. I actually like quite a bit of period drama. But I watch those movies for the technical achievement and the feeling of richness (and snobbery) that I get from watching those movies. Marie Antoinette never really feels like that. It's straight up fun and I can really get behind that.
I get the feeling that my wife probably thinks that Kirsten Dunst is not a talented actress. I know the people she says can and I know the people she says can't act. I don't think I've ever had a formal discussion about the merits of Kirsten Dunst, but I don't think that Lauren would really like her. I like her enough. There are some movies that she really doesn't knock it out of the park for. I didn't hate her as Mary Jane Watson, but I also didn't love her as that part either. But Marie Antoinette is something absolutely perfect for her. I guess it isn't something absurd for her to connect emotionally to Marie Antoinette, being Hollywood royalty. But to examine Antoinette throughout this film, there are many different facets to her. Dunst does this wonderful think about making her seem completely real to me. She wants to live her own life. She knows when to shut up most of the time, but also lets us know that there is more going on than what is being said. She wants to have a rich legacy and has the opportunity to do so, but also she is completely overwhelmed with everything that is happening. Even more bizarre is the fact that Dunst kind of nails this odd relationship that she has with Jason Schwartman's Louis XVI. She finds him unattractive, I think. She has no reason to love him. Bearing his child is this responsibility that she really does try, but she has no idea how to make that happen. And in a really weird way, I think she loves him. That love and relationship is one of the most complicated relationships I've seen in a movie and I absolutely adore it. Schwartzman probably has the easier task with this character. Schwartzman's character wears his intentions on his sleeve. It's odd to think that Louis XVI had a less complicated lifestyle than Marie Antoinette, but I kind of believe it given the story that is presented here. I really have to stress that Schwartman does a fantastic job in this movie. I just see this being a much closer role to what I've seen him do. It's great casting because he is completely aloof the entire story. He's also odd because I think people see him as both attractive and unattractive, giving us some insight into what Marie Antoinette is thinking. It is only in this moment that I realize that I'm ranting and carrying on about a biopic and I keep saying that I hate biopics.
It is just that most biopics are so safe. They kiss the subject's butt a little bit and make the film very cinematic. Coppola definitely makes Marie Antoinette cinematic. Honestly, it's beautiful. I couldn't help but think about Kubrick's Barry Lyndon while watching this movie. The light streaming through the carriage contrasted to the pop of the clothing is just spectacular. But these were really gutsy choices. But there's nothing safe about Marie Antoinette. I know that some people absolutely loathe this movie. I honestly don't get that. Perhaps it is a subtlety thing. I remember back in college, I adored Moulin Rouge! and I defended that movie to all of the haters. I had the same reaction: it wasn't safe and I loved it. I don't know if Marie Antoinette ever gets into obnoxious territory. The closest thing I could say is the "I Love Candy" sequence might be a bit much for some audiences. I mean, I adore this sequence. It is completely unapologetic and I dig it completely. I'm not a guy who is into pretty stuff. Maybe I am, I don't know. But this entire music video section of the film is so well done that I actually stopped and watched it again, despite the fact that the bass blared so loudly that it knocked a frame off of the wall. (Sorry for playing my music too loud. I'm sorry.) I never learned an instrument. I always regret not learning guitar...mainly just so I could rock out on an electric guitar. This movie, you guys, is almost touching on the same reactions when I watch a music movie. I love music movies. I'm shamed to say that I still smile pretty hard at Almost Famous and Marie Antoinette touches some of those moments behind my soul. It's this empowered genre all unto itself. It is a period piece that is mocked by the fact that it could be referred to as a period piece. Conversely, I think that other period pieces would refuse to let this movie into their club. It is beyond most other movies both in terms of scale, art, and emotion. I honestly love this movie and I should watch it every five years. It was so good watching it again after all this time because it kind of was a new movie to me, but I had the same reaction that I had watching it the first time. I'm pretty sure it is on Netflix as of the time that I wrote this review, so I highly recommend you check it out. Also, blast the audio and find a big screen. It'll be worth your time.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.