Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette ★★★★★

An opus, an heir, a new dawn fades: “Marie Antoinette” is a splendorous film - lush, emotional, and decorous, it harnesses all the struggles of a young Queen who is both powerful and powerless at once. If she cannot indulge in one way, she’ll have to find another: what teenaged girl wouldn’t?

Antonia Fraser’s book is an empathic look at the reviled Queen (beautifully wrought, I might add – read it!), and Sofia Coppola is perfectly placed to interpret the glories and the pitfalls of privilege. I know it’s somewhat sacrilege to suggest that privilege has its drawbacks, but I think there’s truth in it, which is highly evident here. When the Swedish soldier grabs her arm, we, too, want what she wants – natural, human desire. Yet she wants to fulfill her duty to the alliance & the monarchy just as badly. This conflict – between duty and desire – is as old as time itself, only it’s just usually afforded to the male hero and not the female dauphine, one of the many things that makes this movie unique, not to mention relatable, to a modern audience.

The anachronisms are another, of course: “Fools rush in,” too young to reign, “Ceremony” and all of that. Has there ever been a better 18th birthday party? And Rose Byrne is wonderful, as the Queen’s girl pal: comedic and warm, on top of the table, the life of the party.

That is, until it’s too late for fun and games and historic events take an operatic turn in the final hours. Mothers and babes die. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. The goodbyes are so heart-felt that it’s impossible not to feel for Kirsten Dunst’s Queen in her moment of judgment and reckoning. The monarchy had to fall, but in this telling of change, we are not allowed to forget that the figureheads are human too, however flawed. There is always a heart beating behind the façade. And narratives can be shattered, even if people don’t like it.

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