- Running time:
- 100 minutes
- Diane Kruger -
- Marie Antoinette
- Léa Seydoux -
- Sidonie Laborde
- Virginie Ledoyen -
- Gabrielle de Polignac
- Xavier Beauvois -
- Louis XVI
- Noémie Lvovsky -
- Mme Campan
Farewell, My Queen (* * * out of four, R, opens Friday in New York and L.A.) deftly captures the sense of impending revolution from within the mirrored halls of Versailles.
The lush production design, dynamic cinematography and meticulous attention to detail is so exquisite that audiences can almost feel the texture of the satin costumes as they rustle by.
What is just as intriguing as all the pomp and frippery is a side of the palace rarely shown in period movies: the dank, filthy servants' quarters.
It is from these chambers that the film's protagonist emerges. Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) is one of hundreds of court servants. Her specific assignment as a lady-in-waiting is to read aloud to Queen Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger).
Sidonie negotiates the labyrinthine corridors crowded with servants and sycophantic courtiers as she makes her way daily to the queen's chambers. She makes literary suggestions, fends off the intrusions of the queen's chief maid (Noémie Lvovsky) and reads a wide range of material to keep the flighty Marie Antoinette entertained.
Based on Chantal Thomas' best-selling historical novel, director Benoît Jacquot's adaptation is gorgeous to behold and well acted.
The players are cut off from the outside world, and Jacquot creates the sense that Versailles is a universe unto itself. The story, which takes place over four days leading up to the French Revolution's full-scale outbreak, doesn't leave the palace grounds until the very end.
Kruger's Marie Antoinette is a capricious and mercurial diva, so much more on-target than Kirsten Dunst's Valley Girl portrayal in Sofia Coppola's vapid 2006 costume drama.
Seydoux's Sidonie is ever watchful. As angry hordes surround the Parisian palace, she is focused only on two goals: gleaning knowledge about what is going on outside and faithfully serving her queen.
While the film differs from the novel — Sidonie is younger in the movie, events are condensed and several characters are omitted — it captures the complicated, decadent and dangerous liaisons going on within the gilded palace.
While the film doesn't delve too deeply below the surface, Jacquot takes real-life events, as seen from the perspective of a fictional character, and brings them to vivid life.
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