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Monday Movies Would Never Say That!

Mom’s in town, so we’ll save Mystery Men, The Pajama Game and District B13 for a later date.

Marie Antoinette — Mom said, “When I went to Versailles, I saw her little village. I thought, what an awful person! But then I saw the movie, I understood it differently — it’s the only place she can go to get away from it all.” This is Sofia Coppola’s method — everything you know about Marie Antoinette, you know about her as the representative of a First Estate that has overstayed its welcome, a parasitic aristocracy whose heads have only the most deservedly tenuous connection to their necks. But why not imagine the young Austrian princess, married into the French royalty at age 14, as a representative from a different country, equally mysterious, equally close and unreachable — a contemporary adolescent girl. (Images, sounds and dialogue seep from our world into Coppola’s version of 18th-century France much like the Coke-bottle or helicopter gunships in Alex Cox’s Walker.)

It feels uncharitable to read this as any kind of apologetics: although the domination and exploitation of the French people are erased from the young princess-cum-queen’s world, when the angry mob breaks through there’s no grotesquerie attached to it, simply an unavoidable event. Kirsten Dunst plays the role no better or worse than any pretty teenage girl–she giggles at court pretensions, passes on mean gossip, feels the pain of knowing she’s a disappointment in the heir-producing department. Coppola swings for the fences with eye candy, far beyond the bounds of historical accuracy. When Jason Schwartzman’s Dauphin becomes King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette his queen, the royal couple don’t rise to the occasion like the Stark children in Game of Thrones–their existence remains just as gauzy and confusion as it would for teenage you or me, until the party ends.

  • Movie Magic: Why doesn’t every movie have Judy Davis?
  • Screenwriting Tips: As much this is a slow-moving character piece, it still presents a character with clear goals and obstacles, chief among which is the importance of bearing a royal heir (and Schwartzman’s sexlessness). Dunst’s quiet expressiveness moves us through the narrative, but admonishing letters from her mother and interruptions from her right-hand-man the Ambassador (Steve Coogan) clarify the stakes.
  • Pot Pourri: One place where Coppola’s method is a little clunky is in the “let them eat cake” scene. The version of Marie Atoinette who pronounces it is a vampy figment with stockings, heels and black-lined lips. But the real Marie’s response afterwards, “I won’t dignify it with a response”, suggests a little too strongly a canny, media-minded pro, not a teenage girl. Also: Try to watch this and not crave macarons.

February 13, 2012 - Posted by | Monday Movies |


  1. My wife and I went to see The Woman in Black. I was a little annoyed because the choices before us were that, Safe House, Chronicle and The Descendants and TWiB would’ve been my last choice. After all, it looked like one of those jumpy ghost movies where they use creepy sets and camera cuts to do their scary thing and that’s what it turned out to be. Of course, this one turned out to have a little edge to it because the ghost was vengeful and punished the town folk by killing their children rather than killing them. As much as you don’t want to see kids die in a movie, it’s nice to see a movie that’s willing to get its hands a little dirty. For this kind of movie, which I can take or leave almost without exception, this one was fine. I was very thankful, however, that it didn’t have the montage at the end that recaps everything we’ve seen and explains how everything ties together. “Oh my God! They’re the same person!” “Oh my God! He’s dead!” “Oh my God! He’s super duper crazy!”

    I also watched Dirty Harry while drifting in and out of consciousness Friday night. I was hesitant to watch it because of things I had read about it being a movie from the right wing perspective. That may be, but Harry Callahan just struck me as a child. He gets all indignant about needing warrants and evidence, but any cop would know the due process required to get convictions. An adult would recognize skirting those requirements would put you at risk of getting the vermin you keep shooting released back onto the streets. So what you have to ask yourself, Harry, is did you get a proper warrant to search the groundskeepers quarters? And if you did, did you accurately describe what you’d be looking for so the weapon he had used to kill numerous citizens would be admissible evidence? Did you, punk?

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | February 13, 2012

  2. We watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which seemed to me to be a competent and satisfying action film — James Franco, however, seemed to be “phoning it in.” #OccupyRedwoods!

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | February 13, 2012

  3. The Wife and I saw Mission Impossible 4 and after receiving the message we wanted to self-destruct. Fortunately we’re much too amused by the fact Cruise is both small and fat.

    Comment by Guido Nius | February 13, 2012

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