After my go-see yesterday I found my way (I always get seriously disoriented in the city and go the wrong way down George St. Happens every time!) to the cinema just as the trailers were starting before Marie Antoinette.
For the first half, I was quite disappointed. It moved very slowly, and felt as if they were trying a bit to hard to set up the atmosphere and environment rather than getting on with telling the story. It sure was a beautiful enviroment, though! After a while I started to become more involved in the story and in Marie Antoinette's difficulties and extravagances, and by the end I was quite emotional and had decided I liked it.
I wasn't expecting to be sympathetic towards the young queen, but I found myself feeling somewhat sorry for her even when she was frittering away the poor peoples' money on diamonds and dresses, or throwing fantastic parties for her lover at the country retreat. The film did (eventually) capture the idea of a young girl thrust into a crazy world... and I was torn between sympathy for her having to deal with the bizarre Court routine, and frustration with her for not realising how the life she was leading was hurting people. I think that's because when you learn about the French Revolution, it's mostly from the point of view of the starving, over-taxed commoners. So while you're seeing the Royal family eating ridiculous amounts of rich food and playing with expensive fabrics and jewels, in the back of your mind is constant thoughts of those commoners, struggling to get some bread on the table.
Kirsten Dunst was fairly impressive. It would have been a difficult role, playing a young woman so far removed from any modern women. I think she captured the essence of a girl brought up in a place of stifling tradition and duty, well prepared for life in court, but with the same desires and need for escape as any teenage girl.
I really liked Jason Schwartzmann as Louis XVI. The character was a little odd; a nervous and eccentric young man. Schwartzmann played him with conviction and made me really like him.
I was pretty annoyed at all the American accents. I realise that any accent would have been equally silly, since technically they should have been speaking French anyway - but they could have at least worked with a more standard mid-Atlantic accent. The American accents made the scenes where they were talking about sending aid to the Americans seem a little odd.
As the mum, the most emotional parts of the film for me were seeing the children. I cried for Marie Antoinette when her tiny baby girl was taken away with not so much as a "please", to be fed by the nurse, even though she'd wanted to feed her herself. I wanted to scream "no! Don't let them take her! You CAN feed her!" And again when we saw little Marie Therese as a 3-yr-old, dressed in a gorgeous but awfully restrictive formal dress and saying things like "I am pleased that you find me so". When Marie Antoinette gave birth to a son, the whole court was present and then the baby was carried, screaming in his basket, in a cheering procession. These kinds of portrayals of children - just pawns and decorations in a big political game - break my heart. The third child broke my heart completely. I won't spoil the moment for you but the sequence involving the third child was done beautifully; the story told in such a succinct but powerful way. And finally, when the mobs were surrounding the palace, those poor children were so scared and so brave.
I was pleased that the film ended with the King and Queen leaving Versaille with the children; and not with the ending of their lives. That would have been too much, I think - and everyone knows what happens anyway, so best to leave that to our imaginations I guess. I feel compelled now to learn more about Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette... though I'm scared to find out what happened to their children...
So yes, I've decided I like it. Although, if I hire or buy the DVD, I will probably skip through a few sequences in the first half to avoid the dull moments. I'm also very keen to see the "making of", assuming they have one. It really is quite a fascinating topic.