Marie Antoinette

Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette



It’s tempting to look at writer/director Sofia Coppola’s biopic about Marie Antoinette as a coded self-portrait – young woman born into immense privilege, continuing in the family business, expected to have an understanding of the hoi polloi though with no experience thereof, allowed to indulge her whims, and so on.


Perhaps it’s a better film seen that way, because as a straightforward biopic it’s full of problems, chief of those being the inertia at the centre, where Kirsten Dunst’s Marie – the Austrian princess bought in by the French to produce an heir – and her spouse the Dauphin (Jason Schwartzman) sit like a pair of bland puddings while around them wheel a menagerie of exotic creatures. Rip Torn’s baritone adds fruitcake richness to his portrayal of King Louis XV, old but still full of priapic desire for his mistress, Mme Du Barry, played by Asia Argento with a look on her face like she’s got a boiler-room of naughtiness going on between her legs. There’s also Danny Huston, as Marie’s worldly wily older brother, drafted in to help the Dauphin work out what to do in the bedroom – the Dauphin might be gay, terminally inbred or just bored, who knows? And around them a court of looks and whispers. These exotics and intriguers apart, it’s a languid portrait of inert, disconnected people that at every turn threatens to become inert and disconnected itself. Coppola knows this, hence the ripeness of the supporting characters, hence the use of modern pop music (Aphex Twin, New Order, The Cure) on the soundtrack, the largely 1980s choices being another hint that this is really more about Ms C, who became a teenager in the middle of that decade.


It drifts along, the Dauphin doing a bit of hunting, Marie getting back to nature in the model farm she set up at the Trianon palace – where she indulges in the sort of mock bucolic playing about with cows and sheep that well-to-do young women now ape with their organic foods and working holidays on farms. And then, waking up as if from a “what the hell was I doing?” reverie, Coppola gets a spurt on with a finale that packs in the “the peasants are revolting”, “let them eat cake”, “off with their heads” headlines in one urgent rush.


Coppola isn’t delivering a history lesson. And the way that she covers the well known events, merely acknowledging their existence, makes that abundantly clear. The clothes are splendid, the locations genuine (some of it was even shot at Versailles), the acting superb, and it’s a fabulously rich summoning of an atmosphere of suffocating protocol. Dramatic, though? Hardly.




Marie Antoinette – Watch it/buy it at Amazon





© Steve Morrissey 2006




Forty Shades of Blue

Dina Korzun in Forty Shades of Blue



An oblique drama which appears to be about a retired Memphis music producer and ends up being more about his much younger Russian, possibly cash-up-front, wife. Rip Torn plays Alan, the legend, blustering egomaniac and serial boozer whom everyone appears to idolise, on the surface at least. The remarkable Dina Korzun is Laura, the Russian import whose eyes tells us she’s dealt with far worse than Alan, but even so she wishes he’d treat her with a bit more respect. The film does little more than observe them as they go about their muted life… until Alan’s son, Michael (Darren Burrows) turns up to throw a metaphorical hand grenade into the mix. There’s a lot to like here – Rip Torn’s muted performance as the guy who’s seen better days, whose appalling behaviour is discounted on account of who he is. There’s not a shred of the comedy booming he delivered in Larry Sanders or Men in Black or Dodgeball. But as the film winds on, it’s the story of Laura that starts to assert itself. Because she’s still young enough to get out and change, if she’s prepared to give up life with Alan. Ira Sachs has made a film that can’t be half-watched, a quiet melodrama that seethes below the surface, where what’s not said is as important as what is. It’s the story of one man’s slide to oblivion but also about a woman standing at the gates of opportunity. The fact that the man is a record-biz mogul – an industry also on its knees – and an American at the end of the American century is surely not coincidental either.
© Steve Morrissey 2006


Forty Shades of Blue – at Amazon





Freddy Got Fingered

Tom Green suckles from a cow's teat



The ancient Hebrews used to send out a goat into the wilderness, hoping it would take all their sins off with it. Modern Hollywood continues the practice every year with the Razzies, awards handed out to films which supposedly stink but which are in fact often not significantly more terrible than many others.


In fact Razzies are often awarded to films which tried hard and failed, rather than to films which cynically set out to be terrible, in the hope of turning a buck, so maybe there’s some honour in getting one. In 2012, was Kristen Stewart really deserving of hers, for Snow White and the Huntsman and the last of the Twilight films? And Halle Berry’s, for Catwoman in 2004, was more a case of her being given an award for poor judgment – it’s a bad film – rather than being bad at the acting thing.


In 2001, that year’s scapegoat was Tom Green who, it seems to have been decided, had gotten above himself. The American comedian had even been the one-time husband of Drew Barrymore. That’s not to say that Green’s film is good exactly. It’s terrible in fact. But it is his film – he wrote, directed and stars.


So what is FGF about? Not much. A 28-year-old slacker called Gord (Tom Green) goes back to live with his parents (Rip Torn and Julie Hagerty), having made a bit of a mess of his life. There he take up with a girl who can’t use her legs but gets a sexual kick (if that’s the word) if someone beats them with a stick.


To keep things lively, Gord tells a shrink that his father is abusing his brother, Freddy. Freddy is 25, a fact Gord doesn’t tell the psychiatrist. Within a short time Gord has a lot more of the family home to himself.


But these two snippets from the plot are already suggesting far too strongly that the film has a shape. It doesn’t, or it only has enough to give Green a frame on which to drape a mush of gross-out gags that did at the time quite convincingly put the Farrelly brothers in their place.


Swinging a new-born baby around by the umbilical cord, copping a faceful of elephant jizz, eviscerating a moose and wearing the skin, for example. One of the Razzies Green won was for Worst Screen Couple, the nomination reading “Tom Green… and any animal he abuses.”


The film also won Worst Actor, Worst Director, Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay and was nominated for Worst Supporting Actor (Rip Torn) and Worst Supporting Actress (Drew Barrymore and Julie Hagerty).


That, surely, piques the interest?




© Steve Morrissey 2013


 Freddy Got Fingered – at Amazon