- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 21, 2006

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

****’Marie Antoinette’

Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity and innuendo.

Common Sense Media: For ages 14 and older.

(out of five stars)

Running time: 123 minutes

Common Sense review: Sofia Coppola’s thoughtful, sometimes-playful retelling of the story of Marie Antoinette focuses on the doomed queen’s adolescence. The punkish titles and soundtrack choices and the luscious color palette depict the girl queen as a product of her times, living up to official expectations while also rebelling in whatever small ways she can manage.

In 1768, at age 14, young “Antoine” is sent to France. Leaving behind all she knows in her native Austria, Marie is meant to cement “the friendship” between the two nations by marrying the 15-year-old French dauphin, Louis-Auguste, soon to be Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman).

When she crosses the border, she literally is stripped of all remnants of her previous life — her clothes, her beloved dog, her name (Maria Antonia) — and instructed by the supremely efficient Comtesse de Noailles (Judy Davis). Once over the border, she is introduced to shy Louis-Auguste and his randy father, Louis XV (Rip Torn).

Arriving at her new home, Marie soon learns that royals get to do whatever they want, as long as they perform certain public duties. While Marie and Louis present a facade of marriage, at night, he’s too shy and uncomfortable to consummate the union. Marie is ever aware that it’s her “job” to entice the king into sex and produce an heir.

But “Marie Antoinette” is less concerned with plot than with context. The film reveals Marie’s changing sensibility in gloriously detailed images: her clothing, jewelry, food and shoes. Timid at first, Marie gains confidence and poise, ultimately being crowned queen at 19.

The film alludes only briefly to the French Revolution and the fall of Versailles. Omitting both Louis’ and Marie’s beheadings (his in 1791, hers in 1793), the movie leaves her looking slightly sad as she departs from the palace.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know this is a punk-rock version of history. Though teens may enjoy the music, the movie’s relatively slow pace might turn off some of them. Families can discuss the movie’s take on the famous 18th-century queen, presenting her as a raw teenage girl rather than a tyrannical royal.

How can you tell that Marie feels isolated in her new court? Why does she get so caught up in shopping and partying? How is her behavior like that of today’s teens? How is it different? How would you feel if you were in her position? Is it realistic to expect teenagers to rule a country? How do Marie and Louis XVI come to appreciate each other’s limitations and support each other in the face of increasing criticism and — eventually — rejection by their subjects? Also, what do you think of the movie’s music? Is it jarring or exciting?

Sexual content: Corsets and dramatically shaped gowns show cleavage; Marie appears naked from the front with arms over her chest and from the back in scenes where others dress her; there are sex scenes with brief nudity.

Language alert: Sexual slang is used.

Violence alert: There are references to offscreen violence, including the French Revolution, which takes the form of a “mob” arriving at the palace with pitchforks and hoes.

Commercialism alert: Marie is very materialistic; she shops constantly for clothes and shoes.

Social-behavior alert: Characters drink expensive wine and champagne, snort powder and smoke.

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