The Affair of the Necklace review

:. Director: Charles Shyer
:. Starring: Hilary Swank, Simon Baker
:. Running Time: 2:00
:. Year: 2001
:. Country: USA


After the grotesque Musketeer, it is comforting to see an American film treating pre-Revolutionary France with respect. Recounting the affair of the queen's necklace, the film prevails by way of a gallery of briny supporting roles and well-carried out intrigue.

Hilary Swank plays Jeanne de la Motte Valois, a young woman who (in order to recover her title and her family estate) formulates a Machiavellian plan to implicate the cardinal of the kingdom (Jonathan Pryce), a false clairvoyant (Christopher Walken), a gigolo (Simon Baker), a pearl necklace, and above all the queen (Joely Richardson).

The film focuses on following the plot step by step with unquestionable delight, all the while making a satire of court schemes. The tone oscillates between irony and suspense, and never yields to the spectacular. The production is painstaking and honest in its wish for an authentic representation of the epoch. The use of recurring flashbacks around the theme of revenge is reminiscent, however strangely, of spaghetti westerns while Jeanne de la Motte's inevitable, moralizing final speech is just a bit too much of a cliché.

At certain moments Hilary Swank lacks the gleam and the Machiavellian unscrupulousness necessary for such a character. The actors in supporting roles often eclipse her, starting with the enjoyable Jonathan Pryce, whose religious excesses amuse more than once. Christopher Walken interprets Cagliostro with colorful grandiloquence while Simon Baker has fun with his gigolo character. Finally, Joely Richardson is also perfect as an insouciant queen.

Equipped with a modest production, The Affair of the Necklace conceals some jewels that should nonetheless arouse the covetousness of the audience.

  Fred Thom

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