Actress Vicky Krieps (“The Phantom Thread”) commands the screen in “Corsage” with her portrayal of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Written and directed by Marie Kreutzer, the film is Austria’s official submission for the Best International Film at the 2023 Academy Awards.

As her 40th birthday approaches, Empress Elisabeth is thrown into turmoil as she anticipates old age and a loss of interest in life. She’s both renowned for and obsessed with her beauty, as that was her primary function to stand alongside her husband, the Emperor.

Elisabeth’s obsession with her appearance leads her to eating less, demanding that her dresses be as tight as possible, and forcing the artist assigned to her royal portrait to simply draw her from one of her previous hanging portraits.

Elisabeth frequently engages in horseback riding, which is one of the few things she finds enjoyable in her very unencumbered life. She using her skill at riding to prove to onlookers, like her sister, that she’s not lost a step.

She frequently visits mentally ill women in sanitariums and wounded soldiers at an infirmary in search of attention. She devours the soldiers’ glances and compliments with more pleasure than any meal she eats in the film.

One of her more interesting adventures is when Elisabeth accepts an invitation to experiment with an early film camera. It’s here that she experiences brief moments of life returning to her shell, and this very footage is wisely used again at the end of the film.

It seems that Elisabeth gains no pleasure from being a mother, or any sense of purpose from that role. She’d rather have an affair with her cousin or find any distraction that can ease her melancholy. A doctor ultimately prescribes Morphine to treat Elisabeth’s condition.

When the morphine addiction becomes all consuming, Elisabeth cuts her hair and has a stand-in perform her public duties. This relationship becomes a bit of a fascination for her, and ultimately Elisabeth replaces herself with the stand-in and finally escapes her mortal shackles.

“Corsage” is at its core a character study of a bored, wealthy woman who comes off as an impetuous, selfish human. The fact that the character and film are at all engrossing relies on the nuance of Krieps’ performance. She’s able to layer in so much with her expressions and physicality, building far beyond the dialogue of Kreutzer’s script.

The film closes with Elisabeth on a ship and it’s apt to say that the movie often felt rudderless. The aimless nature of many scenes felt stitched together in the edit, not sharing any cohesive DNA and ultimately proving that Krieps contributions can only do so much to aid this endeavor.

Letter Grade: B-

About The Author

Founder, Awards Editor

Byron Burton is the Awards Editor and Chief Critic at Awards Focus and a National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award winning journalist for his work at The Hollywood Reporter.

Byron is a voting member of the Television Academy, Critics Choice Association, and the Society of Composers & Lyricists (the SCL) for his work on Marvel's X-Men Apocalypse (2016). Working as a journalist and moderator, Byron hosts Emmy and Oscar panels for the major studios, featuring their Below The Line and Above The Line nominees (in partnership with their respective guilds).

Moderating highlights include Ingle Dodd's "Behind the Slate" Screening Series and their "Spotlight Live" event at the American Legion in Hollywood. Byron covered the six person panel for Universal's "NOPE" as well as panels for Hulu's "Pam & Tommy Lee" and "Welcome to Chippendales" and HBO Max's "Barry" and "Euphoria."

For songwriters and composers, Byron is a frequent moderator for panels with the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL) as well as The ArcLight's Hitting the High Note Oscar series.

Byron's panels range from FX's Fargo to Netflix's The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, The Witcher & Bridgerton; HBO Max's The Flight Attendant, Hacks, Succession, Insecure, & Lovecraft Country; Amazon Studios' The Legend of Vox Machina, Wild Cat, & Annette; and Apple TV+s Ted Lasso, Bad Sisters, and 5 Days at Memorial.

In February of 2020, Byron organized and hosted the Aiding Australia Initiative; launched to assist in the restoration and rehabilitation of Australia's wildlife (an estimated 3 billion animals killed or maimed and a landmass the size of Syria decimated).

Participating talent for Aiding Australia includes Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jeremy Renner, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Josh Brolin, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, JK Simmons, Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Tim Allen, Colin Hay, Drew Struzan, and Michael Rosenbaum.

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