The End Of Sofia Coppola….At Least For Me
Copyright © by Jessica Schneider, 9/16/07
Last night I watched the film Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola, and it was a really bad film. What irritates me though, is that this film, directed by a person who has only gotten where she is due to her lineage, now has convinced me that she really has no talent as a filmmaker. I’ve never seen The Virgin Suicides, and I’m one of the few who appreciated and defended her film Lost in Translation as being something that shows ‘potential’, even though the fact that she won the Oscar for the writing is ridiculous. But now her third film is just so bad, so shallow, so pointless, there really isn’t much to say about it. The costumes and scenery, while nice to look at are not used to their advantage. Nowhere in the film is there a memorable camera angle that evokes breadth or the clues that we are watching someone with real TALENT. The screenplay as well, could be argued as worse, for there are probably only about ten or so pages worth of shallow dialogue throughout the film.
Here is the speeded up version of the film: Kirsten Dunst is sent to France to marry Louis XVI, played by Jason Schwartzman. They marry right away, he refuses to have sex with her, Marie is bored and lonely, and so she begins to enjoy the riches of her wealth, which apparently include eating lots of cakes and pastries (all the while never gaining an ounce on the skinny Dunst), lots of costumes and shoes, and parties well into the night. Then when Louis XV dies of smallpox, Schwartzman becomes king and Dunst queen, and then they party it up, they have two kids (who are both blonde despite Schwartzman’s dark features) and they never age throughout the film. Then it is revealed that Marie has been gambling away too much of France’s money, people show up at the palace with torches and complaining how they have no bread to eat, where Dunst then speaks the famed quip, “Well, let them eat cake.” Blah Blah Blah till two hours later, where we see the two of them being taken away and then it ends. In real life, both Louis and Marie were executed for treason, but none of this is addressed in the film. Also, it’s a cross between trying to make it a pseudo historical epic with that of a MTV rock video. In this so-called ‘period piece’ you will find 1980s ‘New Wave’ classics by The Cure, New Order and Bow Wow Wow: a terrible arrangement of sound for this absurdly shallow film.
This is not to confuse it with the great 1996 remake of Romeo + Juliet, where 90s songs are used for a more ‘updated feel’. The difference there, however, is that the director Baz Luhrmann is treating the entire film in an updated form, not just the music. After all, it’s Mercutio that is a drag queen for Christ sakes. But imagine if he had staged the film for Shakespeare’s age but filled the fight scenes with Limp Bizcuit and the love scenes with Avril Lavigne of today. Kinda silly, no? Well, that’s just how Marie Antoinette is. Not quite the 1984 film Amadeus, where a silly take on Mozart is made, and you have to accept the fact that they are all speaking English in Vienna, but at least the music and costumes are authentic. Coppola should have picked one form or the other, but what she’s chosen does not work.
A lot of her fans will defend her, saying they just did not ‘get it’. I got it, but there was just nothing there to get. This film isn’t even in a league with 1998’s Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett. Not a great film in and of itself, but it also treated the period authentically, and there was no absurd rock music to carry it along. Blanchett is also far more convincing in the role as Elizabeth I than Dunst in this role. Basically, the moral of the story is something along the lines of, “it’s not so great being rich.” People living in the 18th Century Versailles were obviously incapable of any depth whatsoever, as shown in this film. Yet for even the shallowest of people, he or she will occasionally make a comment of insight, even if unaware of it. That’s what a good screenwriter’s job is, to depict the shallow nature of people in such a way that isn’t shallow. But now we have Sofia to thank for making a shallow film about shallow people. It’s also a boring film about boring people. But that does not excuse it from being either of the two.
So that’s why I don’t think I’ll be seeing any more of Sofia Coppola’s films. She’d have to really impress me with her choice of subject for me to consider sitting through another one of her snooze fests, but I don’t think that is going to happen. There are far better historical films than this, and far better directors. Try Francis.
[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the Van Der Galien Gazette.]
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