Marie Antoinette. Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman,
and Judy Davis star in a film written and directed by Sofia
Reviewed by D.J. Palladino
Three films in, Sofia Coppola cannot be dismissed as merely
lucky in her choice of parents. Not much happens in her films, I
admit, but they are far from boring or cinematically pointless.
Case in point: Lost in Translation, presumably a May-December
courtship story set in a foreign hotel, kept shying away from the
usual conclusions of the genre. Instead of a lesson on transient
beauty, it was a collection of exotic and everyday moments detached
from any sense of consequence.
Marie Antoinette is riveting from its rock ’n’ roll snapshot
opening to its ransacked conclusion. Years ago, anticipation was
high for a new actor named Heath Ledger in a film called A Knight’s
Tale, a medieval adventure with a rock soundtrack. It was terrible,
and the music choices lame. This film gets right what A Knight’s
Tale didn’t, opening with Gang of Four, who once wrote a song
assuring us that history was not made by great men. A tame sex
scene here is made explosive by Adam and the Ants’ “Kings of the
Wild Frontier.” There is also music by contempo kids like Air and
The story is all poetic paradoxes revolving around Marie
(Kirsten Dunst) and the court, where her inability to coax an heir
from the king (Jason Schwartzman) is supposed to be damning, though
she keeps making friends. When Marie falls, it’s after she’s done
everything expected. In the meantime, the court offers her dazzling
sensuality and Coppola seems happy to indulge Marie without any
puritanical clichés, like gaining weight.
Coppola’s Marie is not ideological theory, but the dialectic of
film has always been between spectacle and truth. Marie is
certainly in the jaws of history, though maybe she never said that
thing about cake after all. Regardless, she got a lot of it, and
she ate it, too.