What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a punk-rock version of history. While teens may enjoy the music, the movie's relatively slow pace might end up turning some of them off. For those of us who remember our history, she does indeed get beheaded, but it doesn't take place during the movie. There are a few scenes in which Marie appears naked (shown from the back or with her arms over her chest), but not in a titillating way, and there's some sexual allusion when a doctor asks Louis whether his body is "responsive." A couple of sex scenes show brief skin, the king's mistress is buxom and breathy, and there are a couple of birth scenes. This is French history, so naturally there's champagne and wine. In one scene, drugs are snorted and -- as is becoming all too usual in PG-13 movies -- there's smoking.
What's the story?
In 1768, at age 14, young "Antoine" (Kirsten Dunst) is sent from Austria to France to cement "the friendship" between the two nations by marrying the 15-year-old French dauphin, Louis-Auguste, soon to be Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). She's stripped of all remnants of her previous life and instructed by the supremely efficient Comtesse de Noailles (Judy Davis). In Austria, she's introduced to shy Louis-Auguste and his randy father, Louis XV (Rip Torn), and soon learns that royals get to do whatever they want, as long as they perform certain public duties. While Marie (her new moniker) and Louis present a facade of marriage at official functions, at night, he's too uncomfortable to consummate the union. Marie is ever aware that it's her "job" to seduce the king and produce an heir. She's reminded by her assigned French "aunties" (Shirley Henderson and Molly Shannon), letters from her mother (Marianne Faithfull), and advice from attentive Ambassador Mercy (Steve Coogan). Finally, two years later, Marie's brother Joseph (Danny Huston) arrives to "speak to" Louis in a way that inspires him to get his duty done.
Is it any good?
A thoughtful, sometimes-playful retelling of the story of Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola's film focuses on the doomed queen's adolescence. The punkish titles and soundtrack and the luscious pastel color palette depict the girl queen as a product of her times, living up to official expectations while also rebelling in whatever small ways she can manage.
Less concerned with plot than with context, the film reveals Marie's changing sensibility in gloriously detailed images and glances as she gains confidence and poise, ultimately being crowned queen at 19. Increasingly troubled by her "bad press", Marie is eventually undone by history. The film alludes only briefly to the French Revolution and the fall of Versailles. Omitting both Louis' and Marie's beheadings, the movie leaves her looking slightly sad as she departs from the palace. She is, as ever, resigned to her role as the public face of a monarchy bound to fall amid demands for republican government.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the movie's take on the famous 18th-century queen, presenting her as a raw teenage girl rather than a tyrannical royal. How can you tell that Marie feels isolated in her new court? Why does she get so caught up in shopping and partying? How is her behavior like that of today's teens? How is it different? How would you feel if you were in her position? Is it realistic to expect teenagers to rule a country? How do Marie and Louis XVI come to appreciate each another's limitations and support each another in the face of increasing criticism and -- eventually -- rejection by their subjects? Also, what do you think of the movie's music (which is unusual for a period piece)? Is it jarring or exciting?