I’ve seen Marie Antoinette, and I can tell you that it will only succeed if audiences (especially young women) are able to get beyond its anti-biopic trappings. It is not your father’s period piece, it’s Sofia Coppola’s ode to being young and powerful. The film, admittedly, is not really about French history or French culture. It’s about shopping sprees, sexual frustration, extravagant parties, and deep alienation. In other words, it’s about being a young adult. And, while I haven’t seen Fur, the early word is that it is also a very unorthodox biopic, following a fantasy world in the life of photographer Diane Arbus. Linking these two for The Hollywood Reporter, Anne Thompson publishes a great overview of both films and their place in the history of historical drama:
Filmmakers mess with a legend at their own risk. Especially when it comes to commercial Hollywood biopics, it’s dangerous to flout moviegoers’ expectations. But this season, Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” and Steve Shainberg’s “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus” are refusing to take that route, throwing the biopic rule book out the window to fashion their own idiosyncratic takes on historical figures.
A long list of top-flight directors have learned the hard way that a biopic, no matter how marvelously wrought or critically hailed, won’t score a boxoffice bull’s-eye if it is too unconventional. Consider Michael Mann’s “Ali,” Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” and “The Doors” and Bill Condon’s “Kinsey” as well as actor-director Kevin Spacey’s ill-fated portrait of Bobby Darin in 2004’s “Beyond the Sea.”