First, the glories:
… the point here, as with so much of this film, is the heady and unexpected beauty of certain images, which so eloquently evoke privileged youth and guileless hedonism—the “sweetness of life” that, we are told, those who did not live before the Revolution can never know. The teenaged Antoinette’s awed first exploration of her fabulous apartments at Versailles (her tentativeness nicely conveyed by the camera, which weaves and meanders as much as she does); a somehow poignant shot merely of ladies’ sat-intrains as they are dragged through the grass; a scene—at once giddy and strangely, ravishingly languid—in which the young royals, magnificently attired yet utterly youthful, race down a flight of steps in order to witness the sunrise: these linger in the mind long after the movie is over.
But alas, there is also a fatal flaw. Mendelsohn sums it up with a critique of the film’s final image:
The final silent image in this movie, so filled as it is with striking and suggestive images, tells you more about Coppola, and perhaps our own historical moment, than it could possibly tell you about Marie Antoinette. It’s a mournful shot of the Queen’s state bedchamber at Versailles, ransacked by the revolutionary mob the night before the Queen and her family were forced to leave, its glittering chandeliers askew, its exquisite boiseries cracked and mangled. You’d never guess from this that men’s lives—those of the Queen’s guards—were also destroyed in that violence; their severed heads, stuck on pikes, were gleefully paraded before the procession bearing the royal family to Paris. But Coppola forlornly catalogs only the ruined bric-a-brac. As with the teenaged girls for whom she has such sympathy, her worst imagination of disaster, it would seem, is a messy bedroom.