Marie Antoinette is a strangely beautiful Impressionist daydream, painted in the candy colors of teenage imagination. It offers only a bird's eye view of the history churning around its main character, so Marie Antoinette "buffs" -- if there are any -- be warned. Thematically, this film is no different from Sofia Coppola's last film, about cosmopolitan birds moving from one nest to another. Instead of America and Japan, the loci are now Austria and France, late 18th century. Louis, the doughboy dauphin of the Bourbon clan, needs a bride. The Austrian court presided over by Empress Marianne Faithfull -- what, no King Jagger? -- decides to gift him with one. Marie is mailed off via chariot, and after a long ride, her entourage is halted at the border between the two countries, where an elaborate archway has been constructed. The idea is for her to pass through it, like some kind of Franconizing carwash, after which her only problem in life will be "the problem of leisure -- what to do for pleasure" sung about by Gang of Four over the film's hot pink intro titles.
As a filmmaker, Coppola has a preoccupation with environments that are governed by strict social codes, which is probably natural enough for someone born into a crucible of celebrity. With The Virgin Suicides, it was the kill-or-be-killed (or kill yourself) world of high school. Lost in Translation was more about avoiding embarrassment when faced with an impenetrable social code, i.e. the Japanese. Anyone who's read the Antonia Fraser biography that Marie Antoinette takes off from will marvel at the sheer memory power that would have been necessary to keep all the layers of social etiquette straight. Since only a select few people were legally allowed to speak with the Queen, it fell to her to keep up with which bedchamber attendant or "princess of the blood" had earned the privilege of handing her a hanky to blow her nose. Marie is a character so buried under protocol and dedicated to pleasing her intimates that it's easy to believe she never said "Let them eat cake" about the destitute of Paris. "Let who eat cake?" would be more like it.