For reasons best not disclosed, I just sat through all 123 minutes of Marie Antoinette. Avoid it if you possibly can. Sure, it’s not as terrible as the other films I’ve panned in this blog. It’s just frightfully dull.
There’s a fine balance between concentrating on the characters and on the plot. It seems to be the case that when one is privileged over the other, the overall piece suffers. To that end, I can’t think of many films which successfully ignore the need for both. Life is Beautiful, maybe?
There are two sorts of film which seem to fall foul of this, though they fail for pretty much the same reason: historical drama and superhero films.
Both focus far too much on the character because the characters seem to be the attraction for audiences, with the plot being merely a vehicle for people to watch somebody portray that character.
Take the Superman films, for example. Why are people flocking to the cinemas? To see Superman. It doesn’t matter what Superman is doing so long as he’s in it for the vast majority of the film. Superman could be filing his taxes, for example, and people would still rock up (the prosecution submits Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace as evidence).
With Marie Antoinette, the point was Marie Antoinette. Thus, the plot was ‘Marie Antoinette needs to get laid’. She achieves this about half way through, so I’m not entirely sure what the final hour of the film was about. Cuckolding the king lasts about ten minutes. Fleeing the Revolution takes up another five.
And because it’s history, there aren’t always satisfying resolutions. There’s some tension involving a scandalous woman at court early in the film. Then the woman gets in a carriage and is never mentioned again. It’s the equivalent of a soap character getting on a bus because the actor is off to Hollywood.
The result is a ‘This happened and then this happened and then this happened’ sort of film.
It would have been nice if the film were shorter and concentrated on something interesting about her life. A pivotal moment. Something which makes the audience care. By beefing up the plot, there would have been a more satisfying vehicle for the character. Instead, the film is a meandering slave to chronology.
And so very, very dull.