Dec 3, 2023

Destiny Has Brought Me This Lamb Chop

Columbia Pictures (2023)
Before I share my thoughts on this movie, I think it's only fair to say that I am, at best, a Cliffs Notes student of history.  It was a subject in which I performed well in an academic setting, but only because success is based almost entirely on rote memory.  I was able to memorize a list of facts for a couple of weeks to pass the course, and I was able to bullshit my way through the essay questions by stringing those facts together into a reasonably coherent narrative.  After I took the test and we moved on to the next subject, virtually all of the things that I have "learned" faded away to the nooks and crannies of my memory.

Having said all of that, here are the things that I remembered about Napoleon Bonaparte going in to see this film.
That's pretty much it.

I wish I could tell you that I learned a lot more about him after seeing this movie, but that didn't happen.  I struggled to understand what was going on for the first half of the movie which attempted to tell the story of Napoleon's rise to power.  My takeaway is that he won a battle against the British at a port, he fired a bunch of cannons at French citizens who were loyal to the monarchy, he went off to Egypt for... some reason.  He came back after learning that his wife was screwing around on him, and bingo bango, he's the Emperor of France.

The second half of the film includes a battle that he won against Austria and a continuation of his Jerry Springer romance with Josephine that ended in divorce when she wasn't able to have children.  He then married a girl who was practically a child and she gave birth to his son.  Then he invaded Russia and got a lot of his people killed in the process and got kicked out of France.  A little while later, he came back to France to lead what looked like 1815's answer to the Proud Boys in an attempt to regain power.  This failed pretty quickly when he got a lot of his people killed again, after which point he was once again kicked out of France, and then he dropped dead.

Look, I wanted to like this movie.  Ridley Scott directed Alien and Blade Runner, which are two of my favorite movies of all time, and Joaquin Phoenix has been brilliant in just about everything I've ever seen him in, but Napoleon is not a good movie.  It's very long, and very boring, and none of the performances are anything to write home about.  Additionally, some of the dialogue was ridiculous to the point of being parody.  The two moments that come to mind are when Napoleon angrily shouts "you think you're so great because you have boats" at the British, or when he responds to his wife calling him fat by saying "destiny has brought me this lamb chop".  I can only think of two reasons why these asinine lines would have been written: either they're historically accurate, or screenwriter David Scarpa shoehorned them into the script the hopes that they would become a meme.  The only effect they had was to yank me out of the story and make me feel like I was watching a bad SNL skit for a few seconds.

The only redeeming quality I could find is that the sets and costumes looked incredible, and some of the battle scenes looked pretty good, but I found everything else about this film to be very disappointing.  It peaks at about 90 seconds in with the decapitation of Marie Antoinette, and it goes downhill from there.  If Apple thinks that blowing $200 million on this film is going to lure people into subscribing to their streaming service, I think they're in for their own Waterloo.