Marie Antoinette (Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Entertainment, PG-13)

Sofia Coppola has made a pastel, punk-rock period piece.

 

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After the huge success that was Lost in Translation, everyone was curious as to what Sofia Coppola would do next, as it would be hard to top her Asian-inflected chamber piece about two lonely loners out of their element in Tokyo. Coppola's creative enough that one can reasonably expect that she will do something that hasn't been done before, or at least something that hasn't been done too often, and that is exactly what she does with her loose biographical account of the days of the infamous French queen Marie Antoinette—she's made a pastel, punk-rock period piece. Really, who else would think to use multiple Bow Wow Wow songs in a film about 18th-century France? And beyond that, who else could make such a goofy conceit work? (And don't tell me Baz Luhrmann, because you'd be wrong.)

I absolutely abhor the all-too-common practice of film critics giving away the events at the end of movies, but I'm going to brand myself a hypocrite and do just that here, as we all know how Antoinette's story ends anyway: the film does not end with her beheading, nor does it show her speaking her most appalling missive, "Let them eat cake." I say this so that you don't get the wrong idea about the film, as so many already have; this is not anywhere near the historical biography that we are used to, and Coppola refuses to be restrained either by the trappings of the genre that she is working within or even by history itself. Instead, Antoinette's story is more of a vehicle for the viewer to bask in some of the most beautiful locations, edible colors, and elaborate costume design to be seen this side of Pedro Almodóvar, and to maybe get a few stabs in at modern society in the process (Kirsten Dunst's Antoinette's similarities to Paris Hilton could not have been an accident). Or perhaps she just needed a good excuse to cast her cousin, Jason Schwartzman (who here plays Louis XVI), in his best role since Rushmore-he's all doe-eyed arrogant stupidity, and subtly hilarious. Dunst is also good as the clueless queen, and despite her scraggly teeth and claw-like posture, she's made for the elaborately pink costumes Coppola and costume designer Milena Canonero stick her in.

If you can get past the fact that the film will not meet your preconceived notions about Antoinette, it is a thoroughly enjoyable confection of the variety rarely seen in Hollywood: a film by a female director that actually feels like it was made by a female. Here's hoping that more female directors come to power in Hollywood in the near future, because God knows that we could use more films like this one.

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