The Affair Of The Necklace

The Affair Of The Necklace


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

This is supposed to be true. Surely not?

A French countess in the 18th century with an American accent and perfect teeth concocts an elaborate scheme to influence Marie Antoinette in helping to restore her family's good name. In order to do this, she needs the advice of a gigolo and the protection of a salacious cardinal.

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The intrigue is accompanied by a voice-over commentary, just in case you don't understand, and haphazard flashbacks to remind you of her traumatic childhood. Orchestral choirs are everywhere. You pray for silence.

The French court is filled with English actors. Joely Richardson plays the queen as a tall thin lady. The vapid script stifles her personality. Brian Cox seems more at home as a royal fixer who stands on the right hand of the throne and virtually controls everything. Jonathan Pryce is the cardinal, who lusts after anyone in a crinoline. As the baddie, he revels in the evil of it all. For an ex-James Bond villain, this is child's play.

The juve lead belongs to newcomer Simon Baker. The gigolo teaches the countess about the ways of the court and how to get what you want within in. Money and sex are the relevant tools of advancement. No surprises there, then.

Just when you think this costume drama has hit the snooze button, up jumps Christopher Walken, as a mysterious East European alchemist, with a stick-on beard straight out of the Learn Magic Tricks (8 -12 yr olds) Christmas Box. He is a delight, because he is soooo hammy.

The story of a diamond necklace, that looks like cut glass, is confusing, despite the by-numbers commentary. The royal jewellers cannot persuade the queen to buy the thing and so, with the help of forged royal letters, the countess manages to con the cardinal into acquiring it. How this is supposed to help her cause is less obvious.

Hilary Swank poses beautifully before mirrors and against moody wall-carvings. This is hardly a performance. She is no more a French countess than the extras in the streets of Prague, where the film was shot, are up for revolution. Even the log fires are gas.

At least, Marie Antoinette doesn't mention cake.

Reviewed on: 11 Jan 2002
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Hilary Swank is an unlikely countess in the court of Marie Antoinette just before the revolution.
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Director: Charles Shyer

Writer: John Sweet

Starring: Hilary Swank, Simon Baker, Jonathan Pryce, Brian Cox, Joely Richardson, Christopher Walken, Adrien Brody

Year: 2001

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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