Let Them Eat Cake

Becoming the Dauphine of France in 1770 at age 14 upon her marriage to future king Louis-Auguste, Marie Antoinette has become tied in history to the end of the French monarchy during the French revolution. Sofia Coppola, hot off her Oscar from Lost In Translation, writes and directs this sympathetic retelling of the young Austrian princess’ decadent life.

Starring Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rose Byrne and Steve Coogan, not to mention a huge cast of future Hollywood talent such as Jamie Dornan and Tom Hardy, the opulent period piece strikes a much different tone than expected. Coppola takes the ridiculed persona of France’s last queen, notorious for reportedly saying “Let them eat cake” when questioned about widespread starvation, detailing an isolated young girl’s journey navigating the treacherous waters of royal life.

… elegantly directed with an excellent cast, Marie Antoinette is definitely made with an eye on Kirsten Dunst’s younger female fan base

Coppola’s Marie Antoinette has lavish production values and most of the trappings associated with big-budget Hollywood period dramas. The opulent costumes, the beautiful gardens around Versailles, the immaculate architecture under King Louis XVI and his court, everything exudes royal prestige and wealth.

Kirsten Dunst is dazzling as a young Marie Antoinette and the primary reason one should give Coppola’s half-baked script a chance. Believing in a less-is-more storytelling approach, Coppola’s screenplay is maddeningly light on dialogue. Jason Schwartzman’s prince character is severely underwritten, almost a blank mystery in the plot. The elaborate visuals and a strong cast have to carry the uninspired scripting.

The young princess is fashioned as a girl thrown into a strange world dominated by a cadre of nobles obeying a strict social order. Marie then throws herself into material possessions as her new husband, the lackluster prince Louis-Auguste (Schwartzman), has little interest in their marriage. Desperate to conceive a child, a forced rivalry with the old King’s mistress disturbs the court’s delicate social order. The future queen begins a decadent lifestyle that ultimately ends in her beheading.

There’s a lot to enjoy about Marie Antoinette even if Sofia Coppola the writer fails Sofia Coppola the director. Elegantly directed with an excellent cast, Marie Antoinette is definitely made with an eye on Kirsten Dunst’s younger female fan base.

Video

Healthy colors and perky textures mark this fine film transfer struck by Sony’s esteemed video technicians. Mill Creek licensed the 2006 production from Sony. The film-like 1080P video captures Versailles in all its splendid glory. Dazzling scenery is highlighted with strong black levels and a solid contrast. The movie is presented at its intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

Lavish production values and superior Hollywood cinematography produce real eye candy in Marie Antoinette. The queen’s private cottage and gardens show remarkably vivid primary colors. Taken from the original negative looking in pristine condition, the fairly recent scan produces excellent detail and above-average definition. It is a great catalog transfer and stands out from movies made in the 2000s as one of the better-looking BDs.

The main feature runs over 122 minutes, encoded in AVC. Sharing a single BD-50 with another Sony-licensed movie, Little Women, compression on the whole is serviceable. This isn’t a top-notch encode perfectly replicating every tiny nuance of grain. It’s a respectable effort that avoids visible macroblocking and chroma noise.

Audio

Marie Antoinette’s rich soundtrack offers a spirited surround mix with plenty of discrete activity, heard here in 5.1 Dolby Digital. Cramming two movies on a single BD-50, Mill Creek drops the DTS-HD MA audio found on Sony’s BD-R reissue. The lossy surround mix still sounds wonderful, replete with engaging surround elements playing into the bustle of the French royal court.

Scenes like the coronation ring with resounding authority, creating a wide soundstage full of pomp and circumstance. Coppola winks at younger audiences with an energetic rock soundtrack that would be out of place in most period dramas.

Optional English subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Mill Creek’s double-feature of Marie Antoinette and Little Women (1994), both movies featuring Kirsten Dunst, is the first time Marie Antoinette has seen pressed BD. Sony put the movie out earlier in a limited made-on-demand edition.

No special features are included beyond the two movies. The earlier made-on-demand Sony BD-R included lossless audio and a smattering of featurettes, not to mention an extensive making-of featurette originally found on Sony’s DVD. Hang on to your original DVD if special features matter in your mind.

Mill Creek claims the BD is coded to Region A, though that went untested.

Little Women (118:30 in HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital, English SDH) – The 1994 Sony adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic stars Winona Ryder and Claire Danes. Also licensed from Sony, Little Women receives a solid HD presentation from a decent transfer.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Marie Antoinette (2006)
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Kirsten Dunst plays a superb Marie Antoinette in this gorgeous costume drama outfitted with modern touches like a rock soundtrack and sympathetic storytelling for the beheaded Queen.

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