Marie Antoinette (3/10)
by Tony Medley
You can learn many things if
you stay alert during a movie. Tonight, for example, I discovered that
there are 9 small lights on the floor at the end of the back row of the
first section; that there were only eight people sitting in the entire
first section; that the guy behind me hadn’t bathed in a week.
There are many other fine
tidbits I could pass along about how I spent my time last night. Get the
picture? If Sofia Coppola isn’t the queen of slow, she’s the princess of
bore. I got that message with “Lost in Translation,” (2003) but she
proves it with this biopic of the last French Queen, based on a book by
Antonia Fraser. If you want to know what superficial is, see this film.
Coppola also wrote the script, but the script couldn’t be more than ten
pages in length because there isn’t much dialogue, and what dialogue
there is consists of things like Marie saying, “There must be something
we can do to relieve their suffering,” when told that the Frenchies had
a quality of life that was barely above zero.
Want an example of slow and
boring? Many abound. There’s a scene of Marie and two of her courtiers
walking up a huge flight of steps that look as if they are as tall as
UCLA’s Janss Steps (95 brick steps leading up from the Men’s Gym to the
main part of campus). We see them walk up the entire flight, which takes
at least a minute, if not longer. There is not one iota of reason for
this scene, except to take up time.
She throws in a gratuitous
shot of Marie’s lover, the Swedish Count Fersen (Jamie Dornan), on a
horse dressed up like Napoleon (who was only 20 at the time of the
storming of the Bastille in 1989, which is the time period of the film
as Marie lost her head in 1893), rearing his horse up on its backlegs
like the famous painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps by Jacques Louis
David. If there’s a point here, it was beyond me.
Of course, that occurs in
about the last ten minutes of the film. The first one hour 35 minutes
may be summed up by a line that Sofia penned herself (although she took
it from the diary of King Louis XVI, played as a fool by Jason
Schwartzman). Describing the wedding night, someone says, “Nothing
happened,” which is an apt epitaph for this film.
Although she’s been in more
than her share of dogs (“Elizabethtown,” 2005, “Mona Lisa Smile,” 2003,
and The Spider-man cartoons; I know they weren’t cartoons, they just
look, play, sound like, and have the intellectual level of, cartoons),
she has been in some films I enjoyed, like 2004’s “Wimbledon,” and
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” I actually liked her in “Marie
Antoinette.” But the film is so shallow that even an actress I like
can’t save it.
That said, Dunst is a charter
member of the Sean Penn School. Her crying scene sans tears looks almost
like she’s laughing. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it many, many
times; if your actor can’t cry tears on cue, cut the crying scenes.
The only reason this doesn’t
get the lowest rating possible is because it is a very good travelogue,
since Coppola was given unusual access to film at Versailles, and the
other locations are gorgeous. They don’t justify having to sit through
this turkey, though. Because of “Lost in Translation,” Sofia’s name was
already on my “avoid” list. Now it’s irremovable. I don’t’ think anyone
who could pen and direct movies like the ones for which she has been
responsible could ever understand pace. Despite its sumptuous production
design (KK Barrett) and cinematography (Lance Acord), this is
grotesquely superficial, slow, and boring.
October 17, 2006