One of the highlights of my trip to Paris was visiting the Palace of Versailles which has been a dream of mine since the fifth grade. When I was eleven, my parents let me watch the Sofia Coppola film, Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst which kicked off a Marie Antoinette obsession which has lasted for, more or less, the past ten years. My younger self drew countless pictures of ladies in frilly dresses with wide panniers and towering wigs and kept rechecking out The Royal Diaries: Marie Antoinette, Princess of Versailles from my elementary school library.
Marie Antoinette is a perfect example of how to make a period film feel fresh and modern without sacrificing historical accuracy. It’s portrayal of the characters and how they are presented have a refreshing lack of stiffness and feel understandable and relatable but are true to the unique time period that they lived through. Even the use of modern music does not come across as jarring. The film is visually dazzling; the costumes, set dressing, and cinematography are all exquisite. Their pastel/pastry colors emphasize the fun, frivolity, and indulgence at Versailles. This over the top rococo fantasy was perfect for captivating an eleven year old with an interest in history and a love of pretty dresses. The shoes and cake “I Want Candy” sequence where Marie drowns her personal troubles with a little retail therapy is one of my favorite in all of cinema.
Recently I wanted a podcast from one of my favorite blogs, Frock Flicks, where they reviewed the movie and its costumes. They discussed Sofia Coppola vision for the film, to draw a parallel with the hedonism and conspicuous consumption of the 1980s, the era in which Coppola came of age. The film is filled with references to the Post Punk and New Romantic movements and the films of John Hughes which someone who was not around during this period would not get. Last week I heard the song “Natural’s Not In It” by Gang of Four on the radio and instantly recalled it as “that song from the beginning of Marie Antoinette.”
One of the weak elements of the film is that it is two hours long and relatively little happens; it is light on plot and dialogue. A person with little knowledge or interest in history will probably find the movie slow and boring. Even I tend to lose interest towards the end, when things are less bright and bubbly. But the fancy costumes and the “I Want Candy” scene alone make me recommend this film. Like a pastry served at Versailles, Marie Antoinette is beautiful and delicious fluff and makes me crave a macaroon from Angelina’s at the Petit Trianon.