Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen is the latest in a long line of Marie Antoinette renditions struggling to measure up to the infamous queen’s towering pouf. Based on the book by Chantal Thomas, the film takes place on the eve of the French Revolution (the Bastille is stormed within the first 30 minutes) but is set almost entirely within the walls of Versailles, told through the eyes of the queen’s young reader Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux).
The movie is mainly about Antoinette (Diane Kruger) and the Duchess de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen) — a character based on the charismatic enchantress of the court rumored to have been the queen’s lover. But instead of focusing on their steamy intra-palace tryst, Jacquot offers only vague references to their intimacy, jumping from Laborde’s uncomfortable infatuation with the queen to her uninteresting interactions with various palace staff. Only at the very end does Antoinette begin to express her love for de Polignac, emotions introduced far too late in this disappointingly shallow film.
Farewell could have succeeded if it had spent more time exploring the queen’s semi-secret love affair, but when it finally comes time to evacuate the castle, it’s hard to care whether the players eat cake or lose a head.