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The story of the young Austrian Archduchess who became Queen of France at 15, known as Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst). She has a troubled time at Versailles, married to the foppish, sexless Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman), under the bossy discipline of Comtesse de Noailles (Judy Davis) and pitted against the whole court. Gradually - especially after she finally manages to get the young King to do his duty and impregnate her - she becomes self assured and regal. Until the French Revolution knocks all that on the head. Literally.

Review by Louise Keller:
The illustrious juxtapositions of gorgeous settings and costumes, unexpected casting and a beguiling congruence of sensibilities are the strengths of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, despite the royal cake ending up as misfire and cooked too long at the wrong temperature. Conceptually inventive, portraying historic figures in an imagined rich tapestry time warp, the film delights in many ways as a tongue-in-cheek sumptuous costume romp. The boos that echoed through the large auditorium at the Cannes competition screening, were no doubt a reflection of the less than successful change of mood, when the attempt to convert frivolity to drama fails miserably. A royal mess.

Visually, the film is breathtaking, with its lavish palaces resplendent with frescos, manicured gardens and sheer decadence. An ornate carriage drawn by magnificently plumed steeds brings Kirsten Dunst's decorative Marie Antoinette from Austria to France for the arranged marriage designed to unite the two countries. The first person she meets is the wonderfully austere Palace 'headmistress', Comtesse de Noailles (Judy Davis in sparkling form), who explains the daily protocol. 'This is ridiculous,' observes Marie Antoinette, as she stands naked, while the task to assist her dressing changes hands with each addition to the room. 'This... is Versailles,' de Noailles replies wryly. The final act to consummate the unlikely marriage of the spirited bride with Jason Schwartzman's po-faced Louis XVI, who symbolically makes locks for a hobby, is the amusing focus of much of the film, delivering some of its most charming moments.

Dunst is enchanting as the coiffed queen, adorned by flounces and frills, little dogs, crème cakes, champagne and strawberries. The much awaited 'let them eat cake' line is incorporated as a clever dig at the media and celebrity attention. The casting may be a risky cocktail, yet it pays off surprisingly effectively with special mention to Rip Torn as the bosom-admiring King and Steve Coogan as Ambassador Mercy. Royal stiff upper lip must have found its genesis here.

Coppola's miscalculation is her attempt to turn the lively romp into a serious drama by recounting the events in the lead up to the French revolution. Marie Antoinette still plays the coquette even as threats to kill the Queen become a reality. There is no tension or credibility as the mood changes and the spell is broken. It's as though the cake was carefully conceived, ingredients expertly folded together but once in the oven, not only does it fail to rise but leaves a bit of a mess.

There is a behind the scenes feature on the making of the movie on the DVD, together with deleted scenes and an additional featurette.

Published May 10, 2007

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(US/France/Japan, 2006)

CAST: Kirsten Dunst, Marianne Faithfull, Steve Coogan, Judy Davis, Jason Schwartzman, Rose Byrne, Al Weaver, Shirley Henderson, Molly Shannon, Rip Torn, Asia Argento, Danny Houston

PRODUCER: Sofia Coppola, Ross Katz,

DIRECTOR: Sofia Coppola

SCRIPT: Sofia Coppola (book by Antonia Fraser)


EDITOR: Sarah Flack

MUSIC: Jean Benoit Dunckel, Nicolas Godin


RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2006


SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the scenes feature on the making of the movie; deleted scenes; featurette

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: May 9, 2007

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