Here's a suggestion for aspiring
filmmakers: don't use rhyming verse unless your screenwriter is an
outstanding poet. (Note to aspiring poets: don't rely on family
members and friends to tell you if you're any good.) Let's face it:
there are enough ways that a low-budget effort can go wrong on its
own without it shooting itself in the foot in the first two minutes.
In the case of Let Them Eat, though, the opening sequence is
actually a fair indication of what to expect in the next 44 minutes.
Let Them Eat is not all that bad when considered as an amateur
effort; ironically, though, the technical competency of the
camerawork and editing sets up an expectation of professionalism that
sets the viewer up for a letdown. It asks to be treated as a
full-fledged professional film, and... well, it fails.
Let Them Eat is the story of
two women: Marie Antoinette meditating on her life on the eve of her
execution, and Bella, a modern woman dealing with a struggling
marriage and issues in her past. The film shifts back and forth
between the two, with apparently a mystical connection being made
between the two.
The two main problems with Let
Them Eat are its script and its acting. The script is by far the
worst aspect of the film. The dialogue is bad enough; it's stilted
and awkward. We get conversations that start out with profound
exchanges like "What do you want?" "You know what I
want..." and go downhill from there. Methinks there were a few
too many cheesy romance novels inspiring this film. But worse than
anything else is the narrative voiceover. It's not just the
introduction that thrashes out the plot in clumsy rhyming couplets...
the "poetry" comes at regular intervals throughout the
film. It's not just bad. It's pretentious, cheesy, and just... take
my word for it, it's really bad. As soon as I started more or less
getting used to the overall feel of the film, with the potential for
maybe taking it seriously, WHAM! the poetry strikes again.
I do, actually, appreciate the idea
of lacing a story together with poetry. I love poetry and read it for
pleasure. It's not the inclusion of the poetry that I mind;
it's the quality. As I re-read the back cover copy of the DVD,
I noticed that it informs us that "laced within the story are
beautiful spoken word poems that delve deep into the hearts and souls
of our two heroines." Yikes. Let me assure you, it's only
beautiful as compared to, say, nails being dragged across a
chalkboard. (And anyway, spoken word poems as opposed to... what
other kind of poems? Never mind, best not to think too hard about
The acting is marginally better than
the script, but that only makes it amateurish rather than actively
dreadful. The sections of the film that are set in the present day
are reasonably OK, if one cuts the actors some slack for having to
speak the dialogue that they've been given. The sections that are set
in the time of the French Revolution are, however, actively horrible.
There's not even the slightest sense of reality.
In the category of minor evils,
there's the obviously manipulative music and the melodramatic plot.
These are, however minor elements in the trainwreck of Let Them
Let Them Eat appears in
1.33:1 format, which appears to be its original aspect ratio. The
image is clean and clear, with generally good colors. A few outside
scenes look a bit over-saturated, but in general the image looks
The stereo soundtrack is adequate,
supplying clear dialogue and crisp music. The background music often
seems a bit stronger than it should be, but I think this is an
artistic decision rather than a problem with the track.
The first special feature is a
trailer for the film, which has the benefit of giving a good overview
of what the film is like (it's a cheesy trailer with voiceover giving
plot summary in bad rhyme). There's also a 15-minute featurette
covering the private premiere screening of the film.
I always feel a bit guilty when I
give a really bad review to what's obviously a labor of love by an
independent filmmaker. But my responsibility as a reviewer is to the
readers who might be inclined to buy this DVD. If you go out and
purchase Let Them Eat after reading this review, don't write
me an email and complain; I warned you. What might (just might) have
been an OK short film based on a melodramatic romance notion of a
woman with emotional ties to Marie Antoinette (not that this is
adequately explained in the film, mind you) is shipwrecked by the
inclusion of the dreadful verse narration. I'm a literature person; I
know good, decent, and bad poetry when I see it, and let me tell you,
the voiceover poetry is in the "beyond bad" category. Well,
it's all summed up in this: interesting idea, terrible execution.