Does anyone else remember New York Stories, the three short features bundled into one 1989 film release? One was directed by Martin Scorsese, one by Francis Ford Coppola, and one by Woody Allen. I still have the movie on videotape, which I bought chiefly for the Allen segment, "Oedipus Wrecks." But once in awhile I'd watch the Coppola one too, "Life Without Zoe," an Eloise-ish tale co-written by the director's then-teenage daughter Sofia Coppola. Pre-teen Zoe lives a pampered life in a hotel, and never sees anything outside her pretty, privileged world -- the one time she encounters a homeless person, living in a box, she later brings him chocolates. Zoe ultimately meets a princess, who resides in a gorgeous room with a number of other lovely young women, all playing and chatting and seeming even more sheltered than Zoe.
Imagine stretching "Life Without Zoe" into a feature-length film -- better yet, imagine stretching that one scene with the princess into a feature-length film -- and you have a good idea of the general tone and depth of Marie Antoinette, the latest film from Sofia Coppola. Every scene is beautifully shot, designed to flatter the actors and actresses and display the lush beauty of Versailles. For two hours, we are treated to a display of prettiness. It's like one big elaborate meringue, delicate and intricately decorated, but without much past the surface. And yet, just as I still like "Life Without Zoe," I was absorbed in the film the entire time, and never felt it dragged or was dull.