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The Affair Of The Necklace
cast: Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce, Brian Cox, Joely Richardson, and Christopher Walken

director: Charles Shyer

113 minutes (12) 2001
Warner VHS rental
Also available to rent or buy on DVD

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Ellen Cheshire
Paris, 1786 where the Valois family are under threat from the monarchy that orders the execution of Monsieur Valois, believing him to be a dangerous radical. Soon after his death, his wife dies of a broken heart. His young daughter Jeanne is determined to reinstate herself in the family home and ensure that the name of Valois is spoken with dignity not hushed tones.
   Fast forward 20 years and Jeanne has transformed into Hilary Swank, a penniless but beautiful Countess, whose marriage of convenience is proving to be anything but convenient as her husband's reputation precedes her, and the tight social circles that she desires to move in, snub her. Determined to regain her birthright she needs the ear of the throne, but Marie Antoinette (Joely Richardson) does not take to Jeanne's gauche country ways and refuses any contact, so Jeanne begins to spin a web of deceit and betrayal ensnaring a collection of men to aid her in her elaborate scheme to gain wealth, money and her family name. A court gigolo, Retaux de Villetee (Simon Baker) teaches her the workings of the Court, Cardinal de Rohan (Jonathan Pryce) unwittingly provides the finance for their scheme and Count Cagliostro (Christopher Walken) an alchemist and mesmerist, who has the ear of the Cardinal, feeds him spurious information. All goes well until the Royal House Master; Baron de Breteuil (Brian Cox) gets wind of a scandal and begins his investigation.
   This is a sumptuous costume drama with a high calibre cast of predominantly English actors wearing a collection of beautiful costumes, but the film is somewhat short on drama. It is hard to maintain interest in Jeanne's plight over the two hours when she is little more than a sketchily drawn heroine with only a single purpose in life - her actions and those with whom she works makes little impact on her. Her desire for revenge is so strong that she becomes an unpleasant shallow woman and it seems hard to fathom why all these men are falling over themselves to assist. The supporting cast is excellent in particular Simon Baker who plays her lover and the truly magnificent Christopher Walken as the larger than life spiritualist - this is worth the rental price just for him!
   Based on a true story, The Affair Of The Necklace is little more than an adequate drama with a strong cast, but it is interesting inasmuch as the film claims that the scandal caused by Jeanne de la Motte-Valois helped to bring about the demise of the French royal family and the birth of the French Revolution.