Marie Antoinette 
While much was made of the fact that Marie Antoinette elicited boos at Cannes, the many favorable reviews attracted less attention. Inspired by Antonia Fraser's biography, Sofia Coppola fashions a portrait that's just as dreamy as The Virgin Suicides, her first literary adaptation, and the Oscar-winning Lost in Translation. Set to a soundtrack of post-punk (a conceit that adds more interest than resonance), the teenaged Marie (Kirsten Dunst, quite good) may be shallow, but she's rarely unsympathetic. The story begins in the late-18th century as the Austrian Archduchess agrees to marry Louis-Auguste (Jason Schwartzman). After bidding adieu to her mother, Maria Theresa (Marianne Faithfull), she travels to France, where King Louis XV (Rip Torn) sets the rules--and the list is endless (Judy Davis' Comtesse de Noailles is the primary enforcer). As for the Dauphin, he's just a boy, really, with more interest in his key collection than their marriage bed. Should Marie produce an heir, it might be enough to sustain her--since life is nothing but an endless shopping spree--but clouds gather on the horizon as an impoverished populace rises up against their extravagant leaders. Coppola merely suggests what happens next, although history paints a darker picture. Filmed in and around the Chateau of Versailles, Marie Antoinette is a riot of rustling gowns, sparkling jewels, and Manolo Blahnik-designed shoes. To say that style trumps substance does its maker a disservice, but the look of the thing does leave the deepest impression. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Sofia Coppola follows up her Oscar-winning LOST IN TRANSLATION with her most ambitious effort yet. Based on the book MARIE ANTOINETTE: THE JOURNEY by Antonia Fraser, Coppola's film infuses modern pop-culture elements into a regal, historical biopic, resulting in a strikingly original work. Kirsten Dunst plays Marie Antoinette, a 14-year-old Austrian who is about to wed France's next king, Louis XVI (a fattened-up Jason Schwartzman). Her new life is a constant barrage of pomp and circumstance, which baffles the otherwise ordinary teenager. While love has nothing to do with the union between Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, producing an offspring does. Unfortunately, Louis XVI shows no interest in having a physical relationship with his willing wife. Instead, Marie Antoinette begins to embrace her life of royalty, biding her time by shopping and partying and living the life of a spoiled teenager. As time passes, Louis XVI works out his problems and soon the couple has begun to bear children. But eventually, the impoverished French people become fed up with the disparity of wealth between the royal family and the average Frenchman, unleashing a revolt that would change the course of history forever. Coppola's decision to use a modern pop-music soundtrack (Bow Wow Wow, the Strokes) is bold, to be sure, yet it is the type of personal choice that rings firmly true. Another brave decision was to let her well-assembled cast (including Judy Davis, Danny Huston, Rip Torn, Asia Argento, and Marianne Faithful) speak in their natural accents. Decisions like these are what make MARIE ANTOINETTE such a personal, distinct work, proving that Coppola only continues to grow as an artist.