This hollow evocation of the brief life of the Austrian-born Queen of France is all style and no substance - shiny surfaces, opulent surroundings, extravagant dalliances, signifying nothing. Perhaps that is director Sofia Coppola's goal - summoning the vacuity of the reign of Louis XVI and his teen bride by mirroring it with an equally empty film - but I doubt it. For me, Marie Antoinette underscores the fine line that Coppola walks with her films. She provides little actual content or plot, instead hoping that the convergence of nuanced acting, minimalist dialogue, and clever use of obscure popular music will produce an engaging end product. With Lost in Translation, this careful balancing act was a success. But Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman are not Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, and Marie Antoinette is insipid.
Director/writer Christopher Nolan (Memento) is back with one of the year's best films, a dark and electric story of rival magicians in turn-of-the-century London. The film's title refers to the third and final stage of a well-formed magic trick, and this theme of successful misdirection runs throughout The Prestige. The storyline is captivating, twisting and turning through friendship, deceit, and betrayal galore. But the film is driven by its excellent cast, crisply directed. Christian Bale (American Psycho, Batman Begins) and Hugh Jackman (X Men) are in the forefront as the battling illusionists; perfectly-constructed accents of color are offered by Michael Caine, David Bowie (at his alien best), and Andy Serkis (King Kong). Like Memento, The Prestige will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.