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October 2006

Movies in November

Marie Antoinette, US-rated PG-13; German release date: November 2.

Marie is the new girl in town and although she has the hottest boyfriend, custom-made Manolos and great hair, she can't ever quite fit in. With a storyline ripped from a teenager's diary and a soundtrack filled with breathy pop songs, Sofia Coppola's new biography of French monarch Marie Antoinette aims to make her a relatable and even sympathetic figure, sometimes at the cost of historical details. The film follows the famous queen from her arrival in France and marriage to Louis XVI at 15, to just before her beheading at age 38. Through it all, the scope of the film remains tightly focused on Versailles and its residents. This is not a film about eighteenth-century France. In fact, its only concession to setting is the film's lush costuming and production design, which benefited from Coppola's increased bargaining power in the wake of Lost in Translation. Although many have found this film to be an insufficient follow-up to that blockbuster and critical darling, Marie Antoinette is something else entirely: Instead of following group dynamics or considering the impact of cultural context, it wallows in the nuances of its character and her immediate milieu. The biography is a decadent trifle, just as its subject would have wanted it.

Little Miss Sunshine, US-rated R; German release date: November 30.

After its distribution rights were purchased for a record-breaking $10 million at Sundance, this indie darling was transformed into a national blockbuster. Released in the US in late summer, the highly acclaimed film revolves around the Hoover family: Grandpa (Alan Arkin) is a heroin-snorting nursing home drop-out, Dad (Greg Kinnear) is a lousy motivational speaker, suicidal uncle Frank (Steve Carell) is a leading Proust scholar, son Dwayne (Paul Dano) took a vow of silence after reading Nietzsche, daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) is a bespectacled beauty queen and Mom (Toni Colette) is close to her breaking point. When Olive gets the chance to compete for the crown of the "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant in California, the whole dysfunctional circus piles into a broken-down VW van for a road trip across the southwestern United States. With a premise that sounds like a bad joke, this hilarious satire is actually an incisive analysis of the American culture of winning, and how losers can find a place within it. Audiences rarely find critical darlings with such commercial appeal, and should go along for the ride.

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