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-

http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/marieantoinette2006feature/

Midnight Special

(USA 2016)

Midnight Special was hyped quite a bit. The previews were promising, so naturally my expectations were high.

A take on E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and an apparent tribute to Steven Spielberg, the story is enthralling: a father (Michael Shannon) on the run with his eight-year-old son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), comes to the realization that his son is either the messiah or an alien—and perhaps both. Whatever the deal is, Alton’s best interests clearly are not aligned with those of his father and mother (Kirsten Dunst). What’s in store when Alton gets them to their destination in a few days—if they even make it there?

Midnight Special has its moments. The acting is good all around; but Adam Driver as Paul Sevier, a federal agent, adds a nice and much needed touch of goofy, earthy warmth to the mix. Screenwriter/director Jeff Nichols maintains a steady pace and builds momentum with a suspenseful intensity that lasts until about two-thirds of the way through, but then it all grinds to a halt. The film ultimately fizzles because it goes on too long to sustain what it starts. It doesn’t help that Lieberher turns up the creepy factor a notch higher than necessary.

Midnight Special falls short: at heart, it’s a sappy movie about parenting and learning to let go. OK, I guess, but…meh. Not my thing.

111 minutes
Rated PG-13

(ArcLight) C

http://www.midnightspecialmovie.com