Movie Review by Alice Castle
Starring: Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Baker, Adrien Brody
Director: Charles Shyer
I do love a good costume drama – especially when they involve frocks of the “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” variety – large powdered wigs, whitened faces and a good deal of flirtation and a jaunty display of wit, even though most of the time it’s not that funny. THE AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE is based on the true story of Jeanne de la Motte Valois the daughter of a disgraced noble who was killed for standing up for the prols against the wicked, overspending and corrupt French Bourbon monarchy. The recurring motif in the film is that of a young girl watching her father being beaten by Bourbon soldiers while her family heirlooms are burned in the courtyard before her. Valois has grown up, made a good – if loveless match – and is determined to clear her family name in the eyes of the French court and return to her home estate with restored honour and her head held high.
Unable to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette – she who wears the pantaloons on the Bourbon throne, Valois gets in with one of the other lesser important Versailles court cronies Retaux de Villette (Simon Baker) who says he’ll help her with her cause. Instructing her to find a patron, Valois seeks an allegiance with the powerful Cardinal de Rohan (Jonathan Pryce) an extremely unchaste and power-hungry member of the Catholic establishment. Carrying out a complicated plan of forged letters, and double-crossing, Valois and her amour persuade the carnal Cardinal to buy the Queen a stunning diamond necklace from the Royal Jewellers to help curry her favour in appointing him Prime Minister. The stunning necklace, made up of 647 diamonds, has been refused already by the Queen – a symbol that even she had perhaps tired of the extreme decadence of the age. Unfortunately the plan goes horribly wrong and before you know it out come the guillotines and the necklace has been broken up into little bits.
Hilary Swank who I’ve always thought would make a lovely Jeanne d’Arc didn’t quite get it with the Valois character – maybe it was something about her ropey English accent or all the healthy teeth? Pryce as the evil Rouen was convincing enough, and Christopher Walken does a very good job as the dodgy German mystic – but Joely Richardson as Marie Antoinette just wasn’t buxom or playful enough as the disgraceful Queen. Still THE AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE makes a nice Sunday afternoon kind of film when it’s cold and wet outside and the heating in your apartment isn’t working properly.