A drinking game for 1979’s Lady Oscar: drink every time you see a shitty nylon lace bib instead of a cravat!
Oh, the things my 18th Century Quest (to see as many 18th-century-set films as I can) makes me do. Lady Oscar is the live-action film adaptation of the massively popular manga Rose of Versailles — as opposed to the animated adaptation. Now, I know that there are LEGIONS of INCREDIBLY ENTHUSIASTIC FANS of Rose of Versailles (both the manga and the anime). I don’t know if that adoration extends to Lady Oscar, but if it does and you’re a Rose fan, be forewarned: I’ve never read the manga or seen the anime (I know, y’all keep telling me I should!), so I have zero attachment to the story, characters, plot, etc. And, I am going to mock the shit out of it. If that offends you on principle, then please, stop reading this review! I have NO PROBLEM with you loving anything about this story and its various adaptations. I get it. We all have guilty and not-so-guilty pleasures. Please feel free to continue to love this thing with my blessing. (And yes, from the bit I’ve read, it sounds like many fans of Rose of Versailles would argue that Lady Oscar doesn’t capture the original’s genius. Noted.)
If, however, you’re like me and unfamiliar with this oeuvre or want to know about the historical accuracy of its costumes or just feel like settling in with a pink drink for some laughs, join me!
The short version: Lady Oscar is the fictional tale of a noblewoman who was raised as a man (but still wears a full face of modern makeup), serves as personal guard to French Queen Marie-Antoinette, and has some Boy and Gender Issues, all while the French Revolution happens around her.
The long version: General Jarjayes (some kind of nobleman) has way too many daughters. His wife dies giving birth to yet another, and instead of being upset about his dead wife, he announces that the girl child will be a boy named Oscar. I didn’t realize it worked that way.
Then follows an incredibly long credit sequence in which I am confused whether I am watching something set in the 18th century or Miami Vice.
Oscar is raised with the poor grandchild of her nurse, Andre. The two spend a lot of time sword fighting.
Oscar and Andre are CLOSE.
Now Oscar (and Andre) are all growed up! Dad summons them to announce that he has obtained a post for Oscar as guard to Queen Marie-Antoinette, and for Andre in the royal stables. Oscar is pumped. Andre is not. I am aghast at all the hair problems.
In this movie’s favor, it really WAS filmed (at least partially) at the palace of Versailles:
Oscar is literally the queen’s (only?) guard. She stands around while Marie-Antoinette has her hair styled by Léonard, the Duchesse de Polignac manipulates the queen, Rose Bertin shows up with some ugly dresses, Comte Fersen won’t stop staring at the queen’s window while Marie-Antoinette flutters, and the king pops by in all his nylon lace glory.
Meanwhile, in a subplot that confuses me as to its presence,
Jean Jeanne (apparently pronounced “jeen”) is the daughter of a laundrywoman, and she wants something more. She puts on a dress owned by a noblewoman that her mother and sister have finished washing, accosts a random lady in a carriage and tells her that she is the orphaned daughter of the house of Valois.
Back at Versailles, Oscar stands guard while Marie-Antoinette and various courtiers play cards. The aristocrat who took in
Jean Jeanne suggests to Fersen that he marry her. He gets up, coughs a little bit, Oscar pats him on the back, and he tells her “You saved my life.” Huh?
Andre is irritated that Oscar is talking to Fersen. He drives her home. Rosalie accosts Oscar’s coach, prostituting herself for money/food. Oscar insists that there’s no way anyone in Paris could be hungry. Rosalie tells Oscar that people are starving. OSCAR IS SHOCKED. HOW COULD ANDRE NEVER HAVE TOLD HER. Andre gets flirty with Rosalie.
As Oscar and Andre pull away, another aristocrat in a passing coach runs over Rosalie’s (and
Jean Jeanne’s) mother.
Oscar stops yet ANOTHER coach, asking this aristocrat to get a doctor. He goes off on the lower classes and how they should all just die. Oscar is offended, the two bicker, and a duel is arranged. Rosalie &
Jean Jeanne’s mother dies.
That night, Oscar’s father is proud that she’s dueling for the honor of the Jarjayes name. Oscar asks Andre to sleep in her room like they used to.
The duel happens. Oscar shoots the other guy.
Rosalie goes to tell
Jean Jeanne that their mother is dead. Jean Jeanne just wants Rosalie gone, because she might blow her cover. Jean Jeanne is getting ready to be married, and she’s made friends with the Cardinal de Rohan, who’s very oily.
Rosalie continues to try to prostitute herself, but some rando who isn’t Andre, but who looks just like him (including Really Bad Hair) intervenes and says he’ll get her a job.
Oscar and Andre head to a tavern, where they meet Robespierre and others who are discussing reform. Oscar starts a brawl with some rando, and everyone joins in.
After the duel, a wounded Oscar and Andre are found in the street by Count Fersen, who takes them home. Oscar’s nurse informs Fersen that Oscar is a woman. Fersen is SHOCKED but relieved because he’s been finding himself STRANGELY ATTRACTED to Oscar.
Oscar decides she needs to give the film some boobosity.
Fersen and Marie-Antoinette get it on. The voice-over tells us that People Are Watching.
Time passes. Fersen tells Oscar to tell Marie-Antoinette that he’s leaving to fight in America. He kisses Oscar’s hand, saying she should give that kiss to Marie-Antoinette, because he can’t face telling her himself. Andre sees, and is jealous.
Jean Jeanne convinces Rohan that she’s good friends with Marie-Antoinette. He asks her to intercede on his behalf, since MA won’t speak to him. She allows herself to be talked into it.
Marie-Antoinette is hanging in the garden, planning the building of the Hameau (her fake peasant village). She gives an unnecessary soliloquy to Oscar about why she should be allowed to be frivolous. Oscar finally delivers Fersen’s goodbye. MA is heartbroken.
Marie-Antoinette finally has her first child (a daughter). The court gathers to watch. Some random aristocrat gets all creepy/stare-y at Oscar. Louis XVI continues to rock the most shitty nylon lace of anyone:
Time has passed. Polignac shows up with some jewelers who try to sell Marie-Antoinette an over-the-top diamond necklace (yes, THE Diamond Necklace). MA likes it, but says she can’t afford it and sends the jeweler away. Polignac tells MA that Fersen has returned to court.
Rosalie’s beau did get her a job — as a seamstress at Rose Bertin’s dress shop. The team snarks aristocrats while working on a dress that needs finishing for Tonight’s Ball!
Who is this dress for? Why, none other than… LADY OSCAR! Andre shows up and sees Oscar in her dress. It’s A Moment(TM).
Oscar shows up at the ball, but no one recognizes her, of course. Various randos try to hit on her, but she only has eyes for Fersen. The two dance, he sees a resemblance, she claims she’s Oscar’s cousin, he confesses he’s hot for Oscar but is taken.
Oscar goes outside for air. Andre finds her and kisses her. She rebuffs him, he says he’ll never do it again in a “you’ll rue the day” sort of way.
Oh, and Rosalie uses Andre to finagle a trip to Versailles so that she can accost the lady who ran over her mother. It’s very random.
Marie-Antoinette is having her portrait — the famous Marie-Antoinette with a rose portrait — painted by Vigée Lebrun. A Richard Greico lookalike shows up with the king to tell her that’s she’s waaaaaaay overspending. MA is hearing none of it.
Jean Jeanne’s husband forges a letter from Marie-Antoinette asking Rohan to advance her the money for the Diamond Necklace in return for her favor. Rohan agrees.
With the encouragement of Polignac, Marie-Antoinette has decided to try her hand at theater. She’s had a theater built and is practicing a play (The Marriage of Figaro?) despite being warned that it’s not a good political move. Oscar is frustrated with the queen’s obtuseness and asks to be reassigned to the general guard. MA isn’t happy, but complies.
Oscar’s dad summons her to tell her that some slimy aristocrat (the same one who was all creepy/starey at the queen’s delivery) has asked to marry her. She thinks it’s a joke and says no, dad insists. Slimy Aristocrat and Andre have a dust-up in the hall, and Andre quits.
The whole Diamond Necklace Affair comes out. Marie-Antoinette disregards the advice she’s given and requests a trial so that her name can be cleared.
Oscar’s dad throws an engagement party for Oscar and Slimy Aristocrat. Oscar shows up late, in her uniform (despite dad expecting her to suddenly transform into a Perfect Female and wearing a dress, after spending her whole life living as a man). Oscar is purposefully rude, grabs a lady to dance with, and plants a big kiss on her. She thinks this should get her out of the marriage, but Slimy Aristocrat says no problem, he can’t wait to implement Plan Marquis de Sade with her.
Slimy Aristocrat plot thread gets completely dropped as of here. I am confused.
Oscar is in charge of a (troop? battalion?) of soldiers, who crack lots of jokes about her being a woman and don’t have their swords. Oscar is peeved, but runs into Andre who suggests that maybe her soldiers were forced to sell their swords. Oscar contemplates life, man.
Oscar runs into Andre again when listening to a revolutionary speaking in the street. She tells Andre that she’s disillusioned with the court, but when he asks her to run off with him, she says “not yet.”
The revolution is coming. Marie-Antoinette continues to be obtuse. The dauphin has died.
The Estates General happens! The king tries to lock out the Third Estate! Oscar is ordered to fire on The People! She refuses! The People go to the Tennis Court! Oscar goes to jail!
Revolutionaries come and free Oscar and her compatriots! Andre is there! Oscar goes to confront her father, randomly! He’s pissed that she didn’t follow orders. They duel. Instead of sticking with the Anachronistic Feminism of this whole thing, Oscar’s dad wounds Oscar’s hand, and Andre has to step in and defeat dad. Dad asks Andre to kill him. Andre refuses.
Oscar has realized she loves Andre. The two go to the barn and Get It On.
Marie-Antoinette “wakes up with her lover” (Fersen). She continues to be unaware of what’s brewing!
The People are happily off to storm the Bastille! Andre and Oscar join them, all tousled post-shagging.
The Bastille’s soldiers fire on The People! The crowd panics!
Oscar and Andre get separated! Oscar searches for Andre and vice versa! Andre gets shot and dies! The People capture the Bastille! Everyone dances, except Oscar who continues to search the crowd in vain for Andre!
What the fuck did I just watch?