Farewell, My Queen

Directed By: Benoít Jacquot

Starring: Diane Kruger, Léa Seydoux, and Virginie Ledoyen

I can't lie.  When I first heard of Farewell, My Queen, I thought it would be a rather steamy film that highlighted an alleged lesbian romance between Marie-Antoinette and the Duchess of Polignac with the French Revolution as the backdrop for the film.  As it turns out, it's just the opposite.  This lesbian romance is emphasized in the film but takes a backseat to the French Revolution and the looming downfall of the Queen.  For those out there looking for hot lesbian action, look elsewhere.  Farewell, My Queen is a serious period drama that offers far more than an exploration of the Queen's alleged sexual preferences.

Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) is a reader for Marie-Antoinette (Diane Kruger), the Queen of France.  Living with the queen in Versailles, Sidonie is removed from the struggles of the masses.  As a food crisis continues and the Parisian people become rebellious, the King (Xavier Beauvois) and Queen find themselves in a rather unsavory position.  The people want their heads and will go through hell to murder them.  This growing threat poses a grave danger to the royal family and their allies, including the Queen's favorite Gabrielle de Polastron (Virginie Ledoyen), the Duchess of Polignac. 

As the French Revolution unfolds and an inevitable sense of panic sets in, Sidonie refuses to leave the Queen's side and remains in Versailles.  Despite the fact that everyone else is planning for the worst, Sidonie remains.  Even when rebels storm the Bastille, she remains.  The queen recognizes this loyalty from her faithful reader but does not reward it.  The queen is more concerned about the rebels that want her head and the head of her lover Gabrielle.  As she witnesses firsthand the end of the romance between her royal highness and the Duchess of Polignac, Sidonie fails to realize what this will mean for her life and the danger it poses.

Farewell, My Queen is a brooding period drama that explores Sidonie's final days with Marie-Antoinette.  There's something about this movie that's utterly captivating.  While Director Benoít Jacquot creates this underlying tension that can't be ignored, the film depends more so on the performances of the cast.  What makes this film captivating is this performance by Léa Seydoux as Sidonie.  Her understated yet emotive performance will capture your attention from start to finish.  I'm happy to see the actress (whom you may know from Midnight in Paris and the most recent Mission: Impossible film) getting a leading role.  She's finally getting some serious screen time and showing us that she's got the goods as an actress.

While Seydoux gives an impressive performance, I can't quite say the same for Diane Kruger.  As Marie-Antoinette, she gives a decent performance.  The problem is that she's not talented enough for the emotional depth of her character.  Throughout the film, there are points at which I can tell that the role of the Queen requires some powerful acting that's a little out of her range.  Kruger can certainly give us a seductive and fascinating queen at times.  However, she's just not the right fit for scenes fueled by the Queen's raw, unabated emotions in the midst of a serious crisis.

While Farewell, My Queen is an enjoyable film, I need a little Pinot Noir to deal with this mixed bag of performances.  This French drama gets a strong 0.06% rating.