Film Review: JEANNE DU BARRY (2023): Johnny Depp Falters in a Good-Looking but Disappointing Historical Drama SuperNayr

Johnny Depp Jeanne Du Barry

Jeanne du Barry Review

Jeanne du Barry (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Maïwenn, written by Marion Pin, Teddy Lussi-Modeste and Maïwenn and starring Johnny Depp, Maïwenn, Benjamin Lavernhe, Pierre Richard, Robert Renucci, Marianne Basler, Caroline Chaniolleau, Melvil Poupaud, Pauline Pollmann, Pascal Greggory, India Hair, Patrick d’Assumcao and Noemie Lvovsky.

According to director and star Maïwenn’s new historical drama, Jeanne du Barry, King Louis XV (Johnny Depp) didn’t like for people to turn their backs on him. I mean this literally. So folks would walk away from him backwards while facing him to prove their sincerity and loyalty. Too bad the film doesn’t offer the same respect to the audience. It turns its back on us more often than not. King Louis XV would have been a great subject of focus for a film but Maïwenn gave herself more screen time playing the title role of Jeanne du Barry, a woman who became the infamous lover of King Louis XV. Jeanne du Barry looks great with lavish costumes and beautiful lighting but it is hollow as a love story. Depp, unfortunately, is mainly the reason why.

Depp was probably made for this role but at another time in his career, and the film feels like a missed opportunity. Depp doesn’t seem to have a lot of screen time, himself, in the grand scheme of things although I didn’t clock his performance time to the minute. Depp doesn’t speak for most of the movie except in small intervals. So, for a film relying on the love story between Jeanne and Louis to make an emotional connection with the audience, the absence of Depp for a large portion of the film does not bode well for what it is trying to do.

This film opens with Jeanne (played as an adult by Maïwenn, as stated) who is the daughter that was conceived in a relationship between a monk and a cook. She’s protected from society thanks to the kindness of others but strays from religious teachings by taking an interest in sex books which leads to trouble. She ultimately becomes a prostitute. But, she eventually is chosen by Louis XV as a lover. There’s that sequence where they first meet and fall instantly in awe of one another. In a hilariously disturbing scene, the powers that be put Jeanne on a table and inspect her private area before she is to be given up to Louis. The tools employed in this scene look like they’re straight out of a Saw movie.

I’ll skip over a lot of the plot of the movie. That’s since it skips over a lot of historical points, itself, throughout. There are, however, two standout supporting performances here: Melvil Poupaud, who starred in the recent gem, Coup De Chance, and Pauline Pollmann who plays Marie Antoinette.  Poupaud has a fairly decent amount of time in the film as La Comte Du Barry and the actor plays his role very distinctly with intelligence and sophistication. Pollmann does the opposite as she presents Marie Antoinette as a bit immature and naive. Pollmann takes the role and adds a flair to it that makes the viewer likely to wish that the actress had a bigger part in the picture. The actress makes Marie Antoinette fascinating in her few scenes within the picture.

I’ve been ignoring the elephant in the room which is the performance of Maïwenn. She should not have cast herself in the lead role although there’s nothing drastically wrong with her performance. As she plays Jeanne here, it’s hard to get inside her head and that is always a problem in movies like this one. We’re well aware she falls hard for Louis XV but the reasoning behind it all seems a bit suspect. This is true, especially given the wooden acting by Depp who walks around like he’s waiting for the script for the next Pirates of the Caribbean film or the results of the Amber Heard trial a bit impatiently. Depp needed to take this role by the horns to make the movie work and the romance falls flat although Maïwenn certainly gets an “A” for effort.

Ultimately, Jeanne du Barry relies on historical facts to tie everything together at the end. We learn that, like Marie Antoinette, Jeanne was beheaded. She’s eventually banished and not always welcomed into Louis’s home, especially when Louis falls ill. It’s heartbreaking to see the poor life Jeanne had to live, however extravagant the house she lived in at times looked. If she fell in love with Louis XV, he must have had more charisma than Depp gives him in the picture.

From the introduction of a slave named Zamor to the paper thin portrayal of Louis’s unusual daughters, Jeanne Du Barry misses its mark more often than it should. People had sex and married for all the wrong reasons back in the time period this film is set and we’re never quite sure how these characters feel about all the despair they endured. We do know Jeanne was a woman of integrity who had a lot of personality thanks to Maïwenn’s performance. But, as played by Depp, Jeanne would have never fallen for Louis XV the way that she did.

In the end, Jeanne Du Barry is scrumptious to look at but feels empty at its core due to the lack of sincerity in Depp’s performance. This movie is chock full of tidbits that may captivate some audiences but most viewers will be looking at their watches throughout while waiting for Depp to play Captain Jack Sparrow again. It’s a close call but this one is ultimately a miss.

Rating: 5.5/10

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