French History Lite

Today Jenny and I went to see Marie Antoinette. It was marketed as a “Drama, Adaptation and Biopic” with the info blurb reading:

When betrothed to King Louis XVI, the naïve and beautiful, Austrian-born Marie Antoinette enters the opulent French court, which is steeped in conspiracy and scandal. Without guidance, adrift in a dangerous world, the young girl rebels against the isolated atmosphere of Versailles and becomes France’s most misunderstood monarch.

That was very well portrayed in the film. However, the continuation of the info blurb was a bit misleading:

Stripped of her riches and finery, imprisoned, and ultimately beheaded by her own subjects, the Queen of France became a toxic symbol for the wanton extravagance of the 18th century monarchy that incited to the French Revolution.

Although the info blurb unarguably speaks the truth, she was not stripped of her riches and finery, imprisoned, and ultimately beheaded by her own subjects until the last 30 minutes, and while most people know Marie Antoinette’s fate, beheading, that too was left out.

Jenny and I were a little disappointed.

The film did do an excellent job portraying her rebellion against the Versailles court life, her wanton extravagance of the 18th century monarchy, and the fact she lived somewhat isolated in a bubble world of court life.

Very little was done to show the audience the situation of the average (starving) French peasant of the day, in fact, French peasants only show up for about five minutes, armed with pitch forks, torches and screaming for the Queen’s death.

Although there are a few scenes where Louis XVI is dealing with advisors about the American Revolution, and a bread shortage, those are buried deeply with in the colorful decadent candy coated world M.A. is living in and they don’t worry her, she seems more concerned with her hair and shoes… until she goes through the nature phase where she goes to her small home in the country and picks strawberries with her daughter Maria Theresa (named after M.A.’s mother, the Empress of Austria), then she worries about clothes –and seeks a more natural look (white muslin, because THAT’S SO PRACTICAL).

Kristen Dunst also did a rather unconvincing job as MA, but I think this was in part due to the odd passage of time (or seeming lack there of). It took MA and Louis six years for them to consummate the marriage (I learned that in a PBS documentary), and then she had three children, and never looked a day older (although her hairstyles did become increasingly awful looking).

Over all, the movie does a fantastic job showing the opulent decadence of M.A.’s life and the French Court of the day. It falls short in portraying her downfall, imprisonment and eventual death. Sad, but it is probably just as well, at 2 hours 3 minutes long it would’ve had to be quite dramatic, very theatrical and very entertaining to keep the audience’s attention much longer.

At the same time, one is left with the feeling of “well that ending sucked!” MA and Louis drive away in a carriage with the kids, how… dull. We all know she gets beheaded. Jenny argued it wouldn’t fit the tone of the film… it was about her life, and how extravagant it was… once she’s taken prisoner, that sort of stops… I guess she has a point.


3 thoughts on “French History Lite

  1. The movie sounds interesting – I was contemplating seeing it, but I was sort of holding back because I never had much sympathy for MA. I suppose it was typical of the time for the royalty to ignore the peasants and such, but I sort of feel she got what was coming to her. I have a feeling your review is more interesting than the movie would be to me. 🙂

  2. It was interesting, I’d rent it. In the beginning you sort of have sympathy for MA, her introduction to the French court was a bit harsh, but after that… not so much sympathy.

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