Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
July 19, 2012
*** (out of four)
You don’t have to care about sewing or the clothing preferences of the wealthy—I certainly don’t—to enjoy the valuable secrets and rampant gossip in “Farewell, My Queen,” a juicy drama about royal tension in 1789 Versailles.
Yes, that means another big-screen take on Marie Antoinette (and the first since Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film), starring Diane Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds” and Joshua Jackson’s longtime girlfriend) as the legendary, eventually beheaded queen and Lea Seydoux (“Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol”) as low-ranking reader Sidonie. She’s infatuated with the beautiful blonde monarch but aware of where she stands; Sidonie refers to herself as a servant, then amends that to say she’s the servant to the books in the queen’s library.
“Farewell My Queen” centers around characters almost uniformly cognizant of their pay grade, and surprisingly rich anxiety comes from the quiet dissemination of information and the paranoia that results when people feel out of the loop. Director/co-writer Benoit Jacquot, adapting Chantal Thomas’ novel, doesn’t go into why the people have revolted, only that slowly spreading news of the uproar sends folks in power and their underlings into a tizzy of speculation and betrayal. Sidonie may seem reserved, but in Seydoux’s performance she’s never blank, merely an observer who embodies the envy and ambition that consumes some of the lower class.
In a few weeks, a fantastic documentary called “The Queen of Versailles” tells the recent story of a Florida couple who builds a mansion modeled after the palace in Versailles and then can’t afford it anymore after the economic collapse. That film’s a fascinating glimpse into the life of the wealthy and their interactions with those paid to assist. “Farewell, My Queen” may not have a story as entertaining or as untold, but notions of sexual politics (covered a bit mildly in “Farewell”), social ambition and ordinary folks transformed by attire and a title remains relevant in any era. At least, to anyone who still appreciates information that’s leaked between people, and not just IP addresses.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC