The Affair of the Necklace
Hilary Swank, Simon Baker-Denny, Adrien Brody, Jonathan Pryce, Joely Richardson
Directed By:
Charles Shyer

Detailing the events that led to the downfall of Marie Antoinette (Richardson), The Affair of the Necklace is the story of Jeanne de la Motte-Valois, who plots to gain favor so that she can regain her family name. Hilary Swank plays Valois, who, as a young girl, saw her father slain and family home taken from her in the monarchy's attempt to destroy her family's once-proud name. Because of this, Valois tries to have her name and home restored to her through legal means within the monarchy, but when she's denied, she plots to gain favor with Cardinal Rohan (Pryce) so she can use him. As things unfold, Valois and her lover/confidant Rétaux de la Villette (Baker) come in possession of a necklace which two jewelers have gone into debt to make and when they can't get Marie Antoinette to purchase it, they turn to Valois, who uses the necklace as part of her plot.

Affair has the benefit of being filmed wonderfully. The lighting is often soft and filtered, giving each shot a dreamy atmosphere to it. Sets and costumes are lush and well done. The whole visual design is executed well and gives the viewer a wonderful show that does not detract in any way from the story.

The story is told at a fairly fast pace, so much so that a lot of things seem to be glossed over and taken for granted. The love affair between Valois and Villette is shallow and never really fleshed out. There is only one instance where you might think they actually have any true affections for each other. A lot of the bit characters are a nice garnish to the main story and add something in their time on the screen. Walken's soothsayer Cagliostro is a joyful addition in that his own con on the Cardinal becomes a part of Valois.

The main story is a fairly interesting tale, but I think a lot of it comes across as shallow and circumstantial by the fact that it's told with such a speedy pace. If the script was given a slower pace and told with more focus on the characters, it would have given more impetus on the intrigue of the plot. None of the main characters really standout as original or striking. They're played well, but it feels like they've done this all before. Both Pryce and Richardson feel like they've played this role before and Swank is good as Valois, but she never makes the standout performance that this character really could incite. None of this is the fault of the actors, though, as the script seems to leave no room for embellishment of character.

As timepiece movies go, this one is a good watch, but it won't hold up against some of the better, more passionate films that have come before. Directed and filmed well, with a fine soundtrack and adequate performances all around, The Affair of the Necklace is entertaining. If you're interested, give this one a look into.

- - Kinderfeld

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