Marie Antoinette review – if you loved The Favourite, you’ll adore this fun period drama

Marie Antoinette review – if you loved The Favourite, you’ll adore this fun period drama

Strange, funny, grotesque in places … this drama from the writer of the Olivia Colman movie portrays the French queen as a naive and playful teenager – and it’s hugely entertaining

Emilia Schüle and Louis Cunningham in Marie Antoinette
Plenty of plotting … Emilia Schüle and Louis Cunningham in Marie Antoinette. Photograph: Caroline Dubois/BBC/Capa Drama/Banijay Studios France/Les Gens/Canal+

The future king of France is not exactly a catch. Marie Antoinette, barely a teenager, has been sent from Austria to be married off to the dauphin Louis-Auguste – her pug promptly seized and sent straight back in her carriage – and for what? A pasty-faced, lank-haired prince, who emerges carrying a dead rabbit. “Does he … wash?” she asks her one courtly friend nervously. That, it turns out, is the least of her worries.

Marie Antoinette (BBC Two) is the big new eight-part period drama from the BBC and France’s Canal+ (which made the highly entertaining and lavish series Versailles). It is written by Deborah Davis, who also wrote The Favourite, for which she was nominated for an Oscar, and which won its lead, Olivia Colman, one. If you loved that film, there is similar to enjoy here – it is sometimes strange, funny, grotesque in places, with a gorgeous if occasionally oppressive score. Historians and purists in France, where the series launched at the end of October, have unsurprisingly called it “obscene” and full of “historical aberrations”, including the supposed rebrand of Marie Antoinette as a feminist icon. But the trend for reappraising historical and maligned female figures with a contemporary viewpoint is unstoppable and, anyway, this is not the first revision of the last queen of France before the revolution.

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