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My housemates and I lead busy lives, which means we often only get to snatch a brief ‘Hello’ in between our comings and goings. So this year we resolved to have a weekly date night of sorts – one night a week when we go out for dinner, watch a movie, and generally spend some time catching up with each other. Last night we got off to a great start with some mouth-watering food at Richmond Oysters in Melbourne, followed by a couch session in our pyjamas, drinking wine and watching Marie Antoinette (2006).
Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette would perhaps not be everyone’s first choice of movie for a girls’ night in. The film focuses on the betrothal and marriage of the Austrian princess (Kirsten Dunst) to Louis XVI of France (Jason Schwartzman), a slightly odd young man with a passion for little else than hunting and making keys. Struggling to secure the consummation of her marriage, Marie Antoinette eventually distracts herself from being unable to produce an heir by gambling, partying and spending France into ruin – until its populace gets fed up and the French Revolution begins.
Indeed, there are some pretty heavy themes in Marie Antoinette. The pressure and the loneliness of being uprooted from your home country to secure a dynastic marriage cannot help but inspire sympathy for the newly married dauphine of France. And even when her hedonistic lifestyle begins to curry public resentment, Dunst brings a naivety to her portrayal of the ill-fated queen that is quite refreshing, since it would have been so easy to vilify her for her extravagance.
What makes this movie ideal for a girls’ night in, though? Firstly, there’s the clothes and the shoes. My housemate Nicky is not really one for historical dramas, but even she was cooing delightedly over the lavish outfits and hairstyles. Secondly, there’s the food. Beautiful little cakes and pastries are consumed constantly and the champagne flows like water. Thirdly, there’s the eye candy, in the shape of the Swedish Count Fersen (Jamie Dornan), with whom Marie Antoinette has a brief fling. Finally, there’s the music, which is an eclectic mix of classical and ‘80s electro-pop. Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, New Order, The Cure and Bow Wow Wow all make an appearance.
By the end of Marie Antoinette, Nicky, Caitriona and I were all in firm agreement that we had never seen a film quite like it before – informative, touching, fun, visually stimulating, historical, and yet undeniably modern. After the credits had rolled, the night culminated in an impromptu French lesson for Nicky, who is hoping to go to Europe this winter, accompanied by much more wine. It was not the posh champagne that our on-screen party girls had been enjoying, but I think it’s fair to say that we had just as much fun as they did. Almost…