Marie Antoinette earns a big-screen makeover in “Farewell, My Queen,” a lavish French period piece based an inspired fictional fancy spun from real history.
This is not the “Let them eat cake” queen who dismissed the news that the peasantry was starving or bread with alternative pastry suggestions.
But she is loyal to her husband (this King Louis is no fop), resigned to the trap his sense of duty puts them in. So she frets over trivial things — fabrics she covets, embroidery she orders.
And she pines for the woman she loves.
“Farewell” is told from the point of view of one of the queen’s “readers,” court servants who go to the court library for her, fetch her favorite books and read to her each night to help her sleep.
Sidonie (Lea Seydoux) is a ravishingly beautiful commoner who knows her books, knows what her mistress likes and only has eyes for her queen.
And since Marie is played by the stunning Diane Kruger (“Troy,” the “National Treasure” movies), we understand.
But the queen only has eyes for another, a lady of the court. And since she’s played by the gorgeous Virginie Ledoyen, we understand that, too.
Outside, “the wolves” are “leaving the forest” and revolt has come to the kingdom. But Marie is largely in the dark. The Bastille? “Something bad happened there.”
In those marble and glass halls, the court carries on as before, with occasional bursts of energy plotting an escape as the impotent rich fear the rising fury of the mob.
Even though the film begins the day the Bastille was stormed, director Benoit Jacquot preserves the bubble of Versailles as long as possible.
History doesn’t let us feel much sympathy for Marie Antoinette. But “Farewell, My Queen” almost has us rooting for her and those who love her by its finale. “Cake” or no cake, that’s no mean feat for any historical revisionist motion picture.