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Upstairs/downstairs costume dramas are a dime a dozen these days, but be sure to save some intrigue for Farewell, My Queen (Les Adieux à la Reine). This sumptuous yet grittily grounded drama sweeps audiences back into the Court of Versailles in 1789. Our guide is Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux), the Queen’s (Diane Kruger) reader and fiercely loyal subject. We follow as she stomps, creeps, sleeps and falls within the gilded hallways, while outside the gates revolution is brewing.
Director Benoît Jacquot brings Chantal Thomas’s bestselling novel to stunning life. Yes, the production design and costuming are impeccable, but it is the life of Versailles that Jacquot captures: all the petty politics, positioning and preening. And that is simply a glorious sight to see.
We all know how the saga ends, so it is a testament to the screenplay and Seydoux’s performance that, from her angle, the story feels so thrillingly immediate. Kruger impresses in her majestic turn as Marie-Antoinette; she effortlessly commands the screen in what is surely a career highlight. Even where the film begins to pull at bodices — in a love triangle of sorts between the Queen, Sidonie and La duchesse Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen) — Kruger’s blistering emotion captivates, and, more importantly, convinces.