Tuesday, July 3, 2012


 Foreign film- Language: French

RATING:  1 Star

This movie by Benoit Jacquot, is an adaptation of the book: Farewell My Queen, by Chantal Thomas.  It’s the story of the beginning of the Revolution centered on a private part of Marie Antoinette’s life, seen through the eyes of Sidonie Laborde, the queen’s reader.

Sidonie, played by Lea Seydoux, is an almost non-existent servant and reader.  She dedicates herself wholeheartedly to the queen and wishes nothing more than to serve her. Nothing is learned about her life, or her past (until the very end).  When not working for the queen, Sidonie is busy trying to get information on the imminent Revolution. Her last assignment is mandated by the queen. She is tested to prove her loyalty; that part being the only somewhat significant part of the movie. Throughout, Sidonie fails to show any likeability and so unfortunately, no connection can be felt for this character.

For those interested in factual history, this is probably not the movie for you. To begin with, Sidonie, is a fictional character, and the whole ‘behind the scenes’ of Marie Antoinette’s more than friendly love for la Duchesse de Polignac is the center and all of this movie.


If Sidonie is unlikeable- the same is even truer for Marie Antoinette, played by Diane Kruger.  The French queen is portrayed as malignantly as she was in the ‘libelles’ of the time.  Her role seems fitting to the rumours concocted about her. Her homosexual preference for la Duchesse is the only focal point of the movie. And, unfortunately, there is nothing charismatic or endearing about this self-serving Marie Antoinette. 

Mme. De Polignac, the very beautiful Virginie Ledoyen, says very little throughout the movie.  She is uptight, regal-and has an extremely austere demure.  If you’re looking for deep dialog, you won’t get it from de Polignac- for the most part she’s almost always completely silent. 

The beauty of luxurious Versailles in the 18thc is only caught at a glimpse (solely in the room of mirrors-pictured above).  The servant’s quarters, their cavernous eating area, the dingy hallways- were the main settings.  Marie Antoinette’s room is briefly visited.  The only beautiful scene worth noting, is the one where Marie Antoinette is standing with her children bidding Louis farewell by the Versailles gates.  Sadly, that is the only time we see her children at all.

Versailles’ fashion failed to excite as well.  (And to think that Rose Bertin is also in this picture!) Both period costumes and coiffures seemed borrowed from rental outlets (Marie Antoinette, fashion icon of all times wearing a cheap wool-looking-crooked wig??).  

A carousel of secondary characters made their brief appearances if only to give hope for some development to the plot; which unfortunately never emerged.  The movie went on and on to finally becoming pointless…

A cold, calculating, shallow and self-absorbed Marie Antoinette in a less than fairy tale palace, served by an invisible reader without a cause… Les adieux a la reine is most definitely not what would be expected- not even, if only, the glitter or the glamour.  At the very end there is a hope for climax where you feel like something will finally happen-and at that very same moment the words ‘La fin’ appear.  Too little, too late- empty and gone.

NOTE:  Being a Marie Antoinette aficionado, I just had to go see this movie.  Unlike my book reviews where I can put aside a book I don’t like and not review it at all (due to the time I would have to invest for something I don’t care for)- an hour and a half of my time out with my daughter is still time well spent no matter how bad the movie was! So I thought I’d share my thoughts with you; even if they’re negative.  And if you love Marie Antoinette as much as I do, I bet that even after the bad review, you will probably still go out to watch this.  I know, I can relate- because that's exactly what happened to me!
From History and Women


Leslie Carroll said...

I saw an online interview (in French) with the director who talked about how he was returning to the real history and restore Marie Antoinette's much maligned reputation; and then he evidently proceeded to violate that reputation and play into all the libelles. Worse, the movie is based on a novel by Chantal Thomas, who is also the author of a nonfiction book on how horrifically maligned Marie Antoinette was by all the scurrilous libelles.

Ms. Lucy said...

Well...nothing restored in this movie-that's for sure! Thanks Leslie:)

Kevin Elstob said...

Both Stefan Zweig and Antonia Fraser put the role of the Comtesse de Polignac as the Queen's favorite and the influence the Polignac clan had over Marie Antoinette as central to her story in the late 1780s. According to the historians, MA helped and indeed insisted that the Comtesse leave - she went to Switzerland. Zweig's account of how the Comtesse de Polignac ousted Madame de Lamballe as the Queen's favorite is also relevant and in keeping with what we see in Jacquot's film.