Marie Antoinette

(USA/France 2006)

“This, Madame, is Versailles.”

—Comtesse de Noailles

If her take on Marie Antoinette is any clue, Sofia Coppola loves postpunk ’80s British bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure, New Order, and New Romantic frontrunners Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow. So do I. This in all likelihood is what drew me to Marie Antoinette: with three Bow Wow Wow songs (two remixed by My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields), big hair, and a real MTV sensibility, its appeal to me is, well, a piece of cake.

All that is only part of the story. What really makes me love Marie Antionette is the sympathetic angle Coppola takes with this infamous character. Based on Antonia Fraser’s biography Marie Antoinette: The Journey, the first half of the movie is about the difficulties Marie (Kirsten Dunst) faces adapting to her new French surroundings and getting her new husband, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman, Coppola’s cousin), to consummate their marriage. She fails, and of course everyone blames her—even her mother (Marianne Faithfull). When she’s had enough, she says “fuck it” and becomes a full on rock star. This is where things get interesting.

Colorful and elaborate, Marie Antionette is not profound. So what? Lance Acord’s music video cinematography is perfect for what Coppola is going for; bordering on sensory overload, this film is busy, clever, and fun to watch. I know better than to take it as a history lesson.

With Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne, Asia Argento, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston, Mary Nighy, Jamie Dornan, Steve Coogan, Tom Hardy

Production: Pricel, Tohokushinsha Film Corporation (TFC), American Zoetrope, Pathé, Commission du Film France, Commission du Film Île-de-France

Distribution: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures

123 minutes
Rated PG-13

(iTunes rental) B-

The Overnight

(USA 2015)

Sex can be a funny topic with loads of material. The Overnight, a limited independent release from last summer, seems like a little gem. It opens promisingly with Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) and Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) in what just might be hands down (but not off) the most pathetic sex scene ever. It’s really funny, and gets us off to a good start. Sadly, the momentum doesn’t last long.

The couple just moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, and doesn’t know anyone. While at the park with their son, they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), a goofy ageing hipster who sells water coolers by day and who we later learn also paints close up portraits of assholes—as in, anuses—and sells videos of his wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), online. Kurt invites the couple over for a “play date” for their boys (he and Charlotte have a son the same age) that ends up looking more and more like a play date for the adults once the kids are asleep.

I wanted to like The Overnight, but I didn’t. It shows a few flickers of light: the characters are thrust into some palpably uncomfortable situations, including a weird penis dance by the pool (they’re prosthetics) and an even weirder hand job. One of the last scenes actually gets sexy for a hot moment. Unfortunately, though, the whole thing goes limp early on; the story never takes off and the situations just aren’t that wild. Sure, there’s full frontal nudity (albeit prosthetics), but there’s nothing edgy or clever about it. The problem is the writing: Patrick Brice either ran out of ideas or didn’t know where to go with the story. Intentionally or not, the wrap up puts out a moral position that rings, um, judgmental. I didn’t find The Overnight fresh or funny; I found it unimaginative and tedious the more it went on.

(Home via iTunes) C-



Big Eyes

(USA/Canada 2014)

A desperate housewife’s foray into 1960s San Francisco art scene becomes a surprising if dubious success. An “agreement” with her wannabe artiste husband, however, silences her claim to fame.

Something of a morality play, Tim Burton’s stamp is all over Big Eyes. But that doesn’t mean it’s great—it certainly is no Edward Scissorhands or Ed Wood. The problem here is that it lacks the heart of Burton’s earlier work. Too bad. Despite a rushed wrap-up, though, Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz turn in highly enjoyable performances that save Big Eyes from complete inanity.

With Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp, Jon Polito, Delaney Raye, Madeleine Arthur , James Saito, Farryn VanHumbeck, Guido Furlani

106 minutes
Rated PG-13

(Landmark Century) B-