Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Let them eat icing...

By Edward Copeland
...because the tasty topping is all you're going to get from this great-looking but empty biopic of Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola's truly bizarre followup to her exquisite Lost in Translation.

I don't say this lightly when I say that this film actually pales to the creaky 1938 W.S. Van Dyke version starring Norma Shearer, especially in the casting of Louis XVI. I like Jason Schwartzman, but Robert Morley's Oscar-nominated turn in the 1938 version is hilarious.

Coppola's 2006 version is a real headscratcher, tossing in anachronistic dialogue and music for no apparent reason. The music at times is so blaring that it's difficult to hear the dialogue, which is probably a good thing since when you can hear it, you expect someone to go, "Dude, where's my crown?"

You can't blame actors such as Schwartzman and Kirsten Dunst much since they really are just there to fill out the deservedly Oscar-winning costumes and character development is nonexistent. This saddens though in the case of Judy Davis, who is completely wasted, and Rip Torn, though he manages to get a few good moments as Louis XV.

The film also suffers with every character seeming to bring a different accent (or no accent) to the table. I'm glad I didn't catch this until it was on DVD, because watching it is quite laborious and it helps to be able to stop and start it again.

The whole enterprise is just puzzling. Whatever Coppola was setting out to do doesn't work, and that's before the dreaded Danny Huston shows up briefly as her older brother. If I ever doubted the ability of people to make deals with the devil, Huston's persistent appearances in film seems proof enough to me that it can happen. Huston turns 45 this year and, according to IMDb, never appeared in a film until 1995's Leaving Las Vegas, where he played the pivotal role of Bartender #2.

Since his first sizable role in a major release, 2003's 21 Grams, this painful-to-watch "actor" has appeared in 10 feature films, some of which succeeded in spite of his presence, others that failed because of it (see John Sayles' Silver City) and has two more features being prepared for release this year as well as the part of Samuel Adams in HBO's upcoming John Adams miniseries. His father John has been dead for a long time, so he's not pulling the strings and his half-sister Anjelica (who has talent) hasn't worked nearly as much as he has.

However, I can't blame Danny Huston for the mess that is Marie Antoinette. It would be a beautiful, mindboggling bore even if he weren't in it.

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wow much danny houston hate, is he that bad? he was actually an ok character in this movie.. as opposed to asia argento
I think Huston is one of the most uncharismatic, least-skilled actors who gets a lot of work in ages. Thankfully, most of his appearances have been brief such as in Marie Antoinette or Children of Men, but when he gets a bigger part, look out. I though his performance in the movie Birth, which wasn't that good to begin with, was downright embarrassing. Silver City might not have worked if another actor had played Huston's part, but centering the narrative made a weak, so-so script come off as even worse. I liked The Constant Gardener, but I bet I would have liked it more if he hadn't kept showing up giving his usual dull performance with the addition of a terrible British accent.
I hate the phrase "agree to disagree" but I also hate the hate you keep throwing at my man. I know it's pointless to try to convert you but I gotta keep voicing my dissent. Hopefully, with as much respect to this ludicrous (!) claim you keep making. I mean, honestly? There's no other actor you loathe more? I'm having a hard time pinpointing an actor I hate as much as you hate Mr Huston but to pick a straw at random, how about, say, Natalie Portman. She's an actress, which complicates things a bit, but I dunno, it's all I got right now. Maybe I should write a defense of Danny Huston and a takedown of somebody else and you write a takedown of Danny Huston and a defense of my somebody else...

Also, The Constant Gardner is offensive.
Take Kevin Costner for example. He's not a very good actor, but he can manage enough charisma that when he surrounds himself with good actors or good scripts (such as Bull Durham), you don't notice. When he's in a lesser project or trying an accent (like Robin Hood), his lack of ability is glaringly apparent. Huston's lack of ability is apparent to me in everything I've seen him in. As for Portman, sometimes I think she's OK, other times not. I've actually been working on an entire post about performers that grate on you, but it won't be ready for a week or two, but don't worry. It won't be solely about Danny Huston.
I rather liked Huston in Children of Men, though of course it was a brief scene. Maybe he was channeling his own ineptitude and sense of failure as the "other" Huston into that sad, pathetic art collector.
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