Affair of the Necklace [2001]

Genre: Drama, History
For all its earnest intrigue, historically accurate references, and elaborate set design, The Affair of the Necklace is best enjoyed as a comedy of Hollywood errors. The court of late-18th-century France is ruled by Marie Antoinette (Joely Richardson), whose confidence and favor is yearned for by Jeanne de la Motte-Valois (Hilary Swank), a young woman stripped of her title and orphaned at a young age. As flashbacks repeatedly remind the audience, Jeanne is essentially pure at heart even as she takes up with a court gigolo (Simon Baker) and enacts the intricate scheme from which the title is drawn. Soon embroiled in Jeanne's plan to win back her rightful place in the world are her avaricious husband of convenience, Nicolas (Adrien Brody); the soon-to-be-disposed-of Marie Antoinette; the salacious Cardinal Rohan (Jonathan Pryce); a necklace of questionable taste; and a host of other players. All the makings for a hilarious romp (à la Ridicule) are in place, but director Charles Shyer, with his lavish budget in tow, wants the film to be taken seriously. Only Christopher Walken, in a hilarious turn as the fraudulent soothsayer Count Cagliostro, sees through the facile script and relishes his part in what will no doubt prove a colossal flop. --Fionn Meade

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