Kind of a bummer, this one, because I was so ready for it to be good. Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation are so good, such great mood pieces, that I had high hopes. In part, I blame A.O. Scott, who wrote a positive review in the NYT. I should have waited to see in Anthony Lane had any opinions on it.
Sofia Coppola's known of course for how well she uses happenin' sound tracks in her movies, and she goes out of her way to live up to that promise here; for the first time, it's even sold as a double album, in fact.
Normally, I think of a movie's sound track as almost irrelevant because too much reliance on non-diegetic sound is a cheat, if you ask me. It's manipulative, or something. There are exceptions. The Leonard Cohen in McCabe and Mrs. Miller. The Simon and Garfunkel in The Graduate. But consider Desperate Housewives as an example. It's just a smutty soap opera, as thinly written as anything shown during the day time. But people who wouldn't allow themselves to watch a daytime soap flock to this one in part because, I think, of it's kind of dippy background music. Listen to it: it's light, almost circus music, and is used as something of an ironic comment on the loopy shenanigans going on on screen. "What a silly show this is" is the message: "we can't possibly take this show seriously; we're making fun of it, in fact." It's this ironic distancing that allows people to think that they're still superior to the soap opera they've become hooked on; it's how they rationalize watching something that is as worthless as it is (not that I never watch worthless tv of course; I'm not saying, that is, that I'm "better" than people who do watch the show).
Coppola's first two feature films are different in how they use music, though. In those movies, the incredible sound tracks really feel like a marriage with the tone and emotions behind the acting and the movies as a whole. But in Marie Antoinette, the music instead feels like a substitute for those things. Take away the sound track and there's nothing there. It's basically an expensive, rote, march through her tragic (?) life--a period piece Behind the Music. The fact that the sound track is a double album just underscores how much the movie is dependent upon hipster music for it to have any worth at all.
When I re-read this, I realize that I'm coming across harsher than I probably mean to. "Nothing there" is overstating it, probably. But still.
And another thing: I am getting grumpy as a movie-goer these days. A couple is talking through the first five minutes so I have to let them know how irritating they are and then move over a couple of seats. Then, there's this lady in front of me who's checking her phone through the entire film. It's not making any noise, but the screen on those things is so bright that it shines right in my eye--it's totally distracting. If there weren't a woman in between us, I would have leaned forward and chewed her out. There's actually a part of me that enjoys yelling at people for being rude at movies, I think. It's like a road rage where you can actually do something about it, maybe. Or maybe I just have issues.