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44 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

Deception, Betrayal, and Diamonds

Author: KatharineFanatic from United States
12 February 2004

Reading over the comments for this film, I'm surprised how many people disliked it. They harp because there are no accents, different accents, or partial accents. They complain about wooden acting. I'm wondering of somehow the world is cross-wired, since the film I saw had very fine acting, gorgeous costuming, and excellent period dialogue. I was pleased scriptwriters didn't dive into the vulgar, although some scenes (most particularly the actual bodice-ripping) did push the mark.

As a period film fan, I found this story not only exquisite but also fascinating. The plot is intelligent enough you don't have to check your brain at the door, unlike many other dramas. True, it's not completely historically accurate and they've made Jeanne la Motte much more likable and moral than she was, but that's the point of a MOVIE. It's NOT supposed to be reality, just a loose translation of a historical event. I found it worthwhile and watched it three times in a week... a rarity among films.

If you're not too snobby to put on your thinking cap, give it a go.

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53 out of 75 people found the following review useful:

There's really only one thing you need to know about this flick

Author: Karen (surreyhill) from Oxford, PA
15 April 2003

Napoleon once said that the French Revolution was caused by The Seven Years War, the Phylloxera grapevine fungus, and The Affair of the Necklace. It lasted for many years, eventually culminating in the Napoleonic Wars and the Empire Waist dress. It is surprising to the serious student of history that three causative factors were implicated, as the screenplay for the Affair of the Necklace alone is surely sufficient cause to put a few assorted heads on the block.

The Affair of the Necklace involves a historical scandal in the court of Marie Antoinette. Hilary Swank plays a young woman in a marriage of convenience to Adrien Brody's character, who feels her ancestral lands and family name were unjustly seized and taken from her by the French crown. She thinks if she can get to court and lay her tragic history before Queen Marie Antoinette, that the Queen's feminine heart will be moved by her plight. So, she marries the Compte de la Motte in order to get a title which will admit her to court. Marrying Adrian Brody has to rank right up there with La Gwyneth's marriage to Colin Firth in SIL on the all-time Top 10 ranking of "Least Odious Arranged Marriages of Convenience in Motion Picture History".

There's a lot of skullduggery involving licentious, ambitious Cardinals, jewelers who never hit on the fruity scheme of busting up an unsold necklace they were seriously in hock for making and selling off the diamonds individually, and a very odd charlatan psychic type mesmerist/seer played by the preternaturally-creepy Christopher Walken.

I could tell you more, but why? This movie is beautifully-photographed, lavishly costumed, and by and large, dreadfully acted, edited, and directed. I cannot even begin to tell you how bad Hilary Swank is in it. The 1,000 word limit precludes that entirely. And as for editing, when your cuts cause characters heads to jump around in the frame, that's bad.

I didn't expect much, though, since from the very get-go, the movie violated Surreyhill's First Law of Bad Historical Costume Drama: If the Dogs are wrong, forget the rest. They give Marie Antoinette a Chinese Crested as a lap dog, which is a big gaffe, since the first Cresteds were first brought to Europe in the mid 1850's, and this was to England, as part of a zoological exhibition. But then, I think that the Cresteds weren't the only members of the cast who were chosen for their interesting and unusual looks, as opposed to their actual suitability to play the part.

The Cast is pretty high-octane for a movie that basically bombed at the box office and garnered lukewarm reviews. Christopher Walken is joined by Swank and Brody, and let us not forget Jonathon Pryce. Simon Baker is appealing in a beige pantyhose sort of way as the hero, but when your hero is a gigolo who hopes to personally profit from the sale of what is essentially stolen property, you are entering interesting territory, particularly if your lipliner also wanders around a bit, as Baker's does. The problem with Baker is that he seemed to have great difficult taking his lines seriously, and one can see why. There are some real clunkers in this movie, and also, it relies heavily on voiceover narration to make the plot comprehensible, and this is another sign a movie is in big trouble. It violates almost every rule of "show, don't tell".

I was disgruntled to find much time elapsed before first appearance of Adrian Brody. However, he does play "The Compte" and Surreyhill's Second Corollary of bodice-ripping clearly states that any male character under 45 who has the title of "Compte de ________" is to be considered sexy, whether villainous or heroic, as Comptes are by definition, sexy.

This Compte mutters his lines in a weird "method" hybrid of Brando and Queens, while the rest of the cast is assuming an English accent, which causes cognitive dissonance, since the movie is set in France and stars mostly Americans.

Brody certainly does his best to kick some life into the plot, and he and Walken seem to be the only cast members who seem to have copped to the notion that they AREN'T in a serious, art-house type film which will accrue numerous Oscar nods, but that they are instead in the cheesiest of cheesy historical bodice-rippers and may as well have a bit of fun with it. There is little to ponder for most of the first third of the movie other than Simon Baker's neatly-tied queue, until this interesting and unusual-looking man shows up and starts waving a sword around. Apparently, there is some sort of rule in this movie that all fights must be Shirts/Skins, and in the case of the first duel, Simon Baker is shirtless while Brody is dressed to thrill.

But unfortunately for those of us who would prefer an extended shirts/skins dueling sequence, the plot grinds on and the necklace is put into play, and the Compte ends up being chased through the streets of Paris by a flatfooted officer of the guard. This has to be the lamest, most unathletic chase scene I've ever seen filmed. It also points up one of the main problems with the film, which is that some of the characters just were all over the map. The Compte has gone from being a agile hot-tempered duelist--quick to pull out his blade and make use of it, to an ineffectual drunk effete decadent, to a clever schemer, and now he is a man who cannot seem to get out of his own way, or out of the way of horses, fruitcarts, and peasants holding baskets of veggies. He finally escapes by jumping into a canal, or the Seine, or something, and presumably, this was in the days of open sewers, so the next place we encounter him is getting out of his bathtub claiming that he was so frightened he nearly soiled himself. He is bathing, moreover, in the presence of both his wife and her lover, Simon Baker. They're just all one big happy family of co-conspirators. Well, except that the Compte gets angered at some crack the lover makes about his manhood (they both mumbled their way through it as though both were embarrassed by the script so for all I know he was saying that the Compte's father was a hamster, and his mother smelt of elderberries), morphs into a dripping-wet, homicidal, Cesare Borgia clone, and goes after Simon Baker with a knife in one hand, while holding a towel around his waist with the other. I found it a bit tragic that the only conveniently-located weapon was a knife, and not a two-handed weapon, like a grenade launcher or Scottish claymore, for reasons that should be obvious, but the movie kept its R rating, I guess.

One more observation from my notebook--the filmmakers seemed to have the idea that they needed to establish the Compte's "Character" by having him be either drinking, holding a glass of some sort of alcoholic beverage as if about to take a drink, reaching for a bottle, or going over to the sidebar to fill himself a glass in every scene. Yes, even the scene in the towel. Even when he is riding a horse, for the love of all mercy! Even when he is eating a bon bon. Even when he is having a bullet extracted from his hiney. The only real exception was when he was going after the gigolo with the knife, as it would clearly have been difficult to hold a drink, the knife, AND the towel without dribbling Beaujolais down all over his, er, without getting it all over the front of his towel. And yet, the character is never actually shown as being sloppy drunk, despite drinking continuously from morning to night.

Clearly, our Compte has a head like a cast iron skillet. Or the filmmakers think that the audience does, and unless they beat us over the heads repeatedly, we won't get it straight.

Anyhow, there is really only one thing you need to know about this movie.

Bon Bon Scene + Adrien Brody = a Man Who Knows How to Use His Tongue.

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22 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Dispassionate waste of film

Author: littlesb from miami, fl
14 July 2002

I love period dramas. I love the costumes, the sets, the horses, the street scenes. I love the fact that maybe I can learn a little bit about history along with being entertained. So it was with hope that I rented this movie even though it had only been in the theater two days and there were only two copies of it at Blockbuster (both bad signs). I understand now why no one had wanted anything to do with it from the beginning.

This film simply did not click. There was nothing in it that made me interested in or care about the protagonists. The main fault should go to the casting director who terribly miscast Hillary Swank as an 18th century French noblewoman. Don't get me wrong, I do like Hillary and have recently praised her depiction of the young cop in "Insomnia", but in "The Affair" she was like a fish out of water, too angular, too wooden and quite obviously a modern American actress faking an English accent depicting a French character.

Then we must blame the director, because the sense of tension in this film was minimal. This was a movie about a court intrigue where the stakes were huge both monetarily and punitively. Much more passion should have been injected, more fear, more highs, more lows, intense love and ferocious hate, anything to get the viewer engaged. That this was not done was unfortunate, because the film has a beautiful look to it and the sets and costumes do not disappoint.

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22 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

A ...NECKLACE Made of Both True Gems and Fabulous Fakes

Author: Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci (dtb) from Whitehall, PA
9 January 2004

Despite John Sweet's uneven script, this fact-based tale of intrigue and scams in Marie Antoinette's court is watchable thanks to sumptuous production values (Milena Canonero's gorgeous costume design garnered an Oscar nomination), scene-stealing performances by Christopher Walken and Adrien Brody (who even gets into some swordplay as the heroine's dissolute nobleman husband. Few people can make lechery and debauchery look as sexy and fun as Brody does here! :-), and good solid work from most of the rest of the cast. In this drastic change of pace from her Oscar-winning performance in BOYS DON'T CRY, Hilary Swank plays Jeanne St. Remy de Valois, who takes revenge on her father's death and her family's ruin by pulling a scam on Cardinal Jonathan Pryce involving an ornate diamond necklace designed for exiled Madame DuBarry and spurned by the Queen (Joely Richardson captures Marie Antoinette's self-absorbed naïveté while still managing to make me feel a little sorry for her, knowing she'd pay for her foolishness with her life). Swank's performance isn't bad, but it's not as assured as it should be, considering that Jeanne's plot turned out to be instrumental in spawning the French Revolution. Next to the rest of the sterling cast, which also includes Brian Cox and Simon Baker, Swank sometimes comes across as a little girl who's playing dress-up and feeling self-conscious about it. FTR, my fave line comes from Brody who, after being shot by Swank's lady-in-waiting during his swordfight with Baker, is having the bullet in his butt removed none-too-gently by a doctor: `Good God, are you digging for potatoes?!` :-)

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16 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A well known tale ...and a redeemed Comtesse de la Motte!

Author: dbdumonteil
28 April 2004

This storylike true story had already been filmed by Marcel Lherbier in 1946,with Vivianne Romance -famous for her bitchy parts-,a more than adequate comtesse de la Motte.

This is the first mistake of this "remake":Hilary Swank portrays a genuine heroine,whose properties have been stolen by an unfair monarchy,whose father was some kind of Robin Hood who protected the poor against the cruelty of times.She appears most of the time as a victim,a noble adventuress,with a romantic love affair with her sidekick,but it's the ending in London that takes the biscuit,when she reads her memoirs to old posh sobbing ladies "oh poor thing!oh poor dear!" Les "memoires de madame de la Motte" -which were published in France during the revolution are obnoxious,trash stuff..Historian Jean Chalon quotes this line in that notorious book "the voluptuous princess -she's speaking of Marie-Antoinette- was waiting for me in her bed ,and I must say she took advantage of her husband's absence..."Actually Marie-Antoinette never met madame de la Motte and the scene under the snow when the queen accuses la comtesse of ruining the monarchy is pure fiction.

The scenarists are as naive as the cardinal de Rohan,and as the people of Paris in 1786,who thought Madame de la Motte's punishment was unfair.La Motte wouldn't stay long in la Salpetriere anyway,and some say she was helped to escape.As for cardinal de Rohan ,he was far from being a saint,but he was naiveté could he believe that Marie Antoinette ,who had always despised her and never spoke to him,could use him as an emissary?

The film is entertaining and a lot of scenes are more historically accurate -such as the grove of Venus and the trial:that's was the queen's mistake:the king did not need the parlament to judge somebody-. Walken is ideally cast as comte de Cagliostro ,as Brody as Nicolas de la Motte.But the Queen's execution (1793) comes at the most awkward moment ,and La Motte was dead (in 1791) when it occurred anyway.The scenarists suggest her death might have been a crime :never an earnest French historian made a hint at that.At the time,the royal family had more important problems to solve .

The scenarists say that the affair of the necklace was the direct cause for the French revolution,which is a narrow-minded view.It might have been the straw that broke the camel's back but the reasons were much more complex and the students should take a better look at it.

The movie does not tell that after his exile,Rohan was restored to favor during the revolution ,became part of the Etats-Généraux" in 1789 ,and died in Germany in 1803,the last of the dramatis personae

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A Good Movie That Could Have Been Great

Author: classicalsteve from Oakland, CA
26 November 2006

The costumes are lavish, the sets lush and resplendent. The story is compelling: how a strange affair of court intrigue becomes part of a larger mosaic of incidences that will eventually bring down the French monarchy. As a backdrop to the main events of the film is the rising unrest of the French citizenry who are becoming more and more disillusioned with their monarchy. A couple of great actors, most notably Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Rohan, stand out. And yet, although much of the film is there, it is not quite all there. Unfortunately for all its splendor, the final piece needed to make the movie a triumph is lacking: a leading lady right for the part. And maybe some adjustments in the music department.

First the positives: Despite a number of misgivings, this film still has the one element I always look for in any film: is the story compelling enough that, at any given moment, I care about what will happen next and it is not obvious what will happen next? And this movie definitely possesses the required attribute. Few movies have this rather simple facet, and yet, for me, it is often what will make or break a film regardless of the genre. Films as diverse as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Amadeus, and The Sting have the notable quality of being unpredictable until the very end. These last examples are of course masterpieces of film-making where Necklace is not. It's a good film with a good story but not one that will make any critics' lists.

The story of The Affair of the Necklace is extremely complex involving a countess, the Cardinal of France, the Queen of France, a gigolo, a sorcerer/psychic, a couple of jewelers, a peasant actress, forged letters, and a necklace of tremendous value and prestige. From the start, we know who did it, and the story back-tracks to tell us how and why the intrigue was perpetrated.

Now the not-so-good news: Hillary Swank, a 2-time academy-award-winning actress, is miscast for the part. The rest of the cast acclimates relatively well to late 18th-century France except for her. At times she seems to be playing a character more akin to an early 20th-century debutante than an 18th-century former member of the aristocracy. At times, some of her scenes appear contrived to provoke pity. The character is portrayed on the more innocent and vulnerable side of the female-character spectrum. This seems a bit hard to swallow as this woman is also a mastermind behind an intrigue that may have contributed to the downfall of the aristocracy. Maybe someone like Helena Bonham-Carter would have been a better choice...

The music is also inconsistent. For the majority of the movie, 18th-century and even 17th-century music is heard which seems appropriate as this is a period picture. I noticed a brief excerpt from the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 in one of the church scenes. At other times, "original" music sounding a lot like Enya is played which always ruins my "disbelief". It reminds me we are in a movie made a couple of centuries after the events that are taking place. The filmmakers would have probably saved a lot of time and money by sticking to period music and not hiring a composer who writes new age music.

That said, this is still a good film when good films are uncommon. Perfect, not by a long shot. The script? Inconsistent but has its moments. Absorbing? Definitely. If you like period pictures, particularly those portraying pre-1800 Europe, you will still get a lot out of The Affair of the Necklace.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

What a crock!!

Author: Lunarsilver629 from United States
27 May 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I first sat down to watch this movie, I thought it was positively brilliant. Hillary Swank is great in everything she does...hell, the whole cast did a bang up job! But mostly I liked it because I thought it was the truth. After all it matched all I had learned in high school.

Then I found out what a big lie it all was.

This whole 'Affair' was completely romanticized and history rewritten to show the world yet again how _terrible_ the Monarchy was. But since I'm armed with new information, I might as well inform everyone who thinks the same way I thought of some key facts.

Fact 1: The Monarchy NEVER killed Jeanne's father. Her parents were LONG dead before this whole affair even took place. Her rage at the Monarchy stemmed from the pension she was suppose to receive from being a blood royal. Her rage at Marie stemmed her apathy, yes, but because she did not really sympathize with Jeanne's plight.

Fact 2: Jeanne was not born a noble. True, she was illegitimately descended from royalty but all her nobility ties and titles came from her marriage to Nicolas. In fact, she was quite well off in her marriage, but that didn't stop her from sleeping around with the likes of both the Cardinal and Rétaux.

Fact 3: Buying the necklace was all the CARDINAL'S idea. But Jeanne went along with it readily, but her greed got in the way. She ran to _sell_ the diamonds off the necklace in London and keep the profits for herself.

Knowing what I know now, I'm infuriated at this movie not only for falsifying history but trying to tell us this is exactly what happened. Marie Antoinette was the true victim in all this (something Joely Richardson tried to convey in her performance) and Jeanne was exactly what the Monarchy said she was; a petty whorish thief. There was no honor in what those people did, they all had their own selfish reasons. I'm just sad with the pile of historical information we have at our disposal no one seems to want to use it.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The Affair of the Necklace

Author: alex-burch
1 January 2007

This was a movie I had always had a slight interest in seeing and never gotten around to it, then I eventually forced myself to rent it and I must say I really did enjoy it. For all the history buffs this is not a movie for them, but if you really just sit down and watch without analyzing every detail it is very enjoyable. The plot is very interesting and interwoven and for the most part the cast does an excellent job. My only exception was unfortunately Hilary Swank. I have always loved Hilary Swank, but she didn't seem to have a clear understanding of what she wanted to portray with Jeanne. Jonathan Pryce was absolutely fantastic as the cardinal. He conveyed a danger that was very subtle yet frightening at the same time. The costumes were amazing, and I was very happy to see some scenes actually shot in "The Hall of Mirrors." Charles Shyer didn't blow me away with his directing style and some shots seemed uneven and out of place, but it was in no way distracting. Overall, it's a movie that doesn't necessarily require you to think very much, but it is still enjoyable. I'd recommend it for a lazy afternoon next chance you get.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Lies! All lies!!

Author: Benoît A. Racine (benoit-3) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada
27 June 2002

The Affair of the Necklace is a film that has some qualities but only adds more layers of falsehoods to a story that is already fraught with them. This film is trying to make Jeanne de la Motte into an unjustly destitute noble heroine along the lines of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Nothing could be further from the truth. She was a thief and a whore. Here are a few documented facts:

Jeanne's father was not dispossessed by the King's men; he pretty well did that to himself as a village drunkard and professional poacher. He married a servant girl who later became a prostitute. He was not a political agitator. Jeanne was actually generously pensioned by the King for being a true descendant of Henry II. She was introduced to Rohan by one of her many benefactors. She became his lover on her second visit. Cardinal Rohan, by the way, was not 'cardinal of all France', but Grand Almoner (or 'court cardinal'), a privilege he lost after the trial. Jeanne did not meet Rétaux as a court gigolo during one of her many fake fainting spells in court (three in all); he was a companion of arms and debauchery of her husband, who did not have a jealous bone in his body. At the conclusion of the trial, Cagliostro was also exiled from France by Parliament. After escaping from France, Jeanne did not retire to semi-gentility, lecturing English society matrons on her edifying adventures. She wrote pornographic memoirs in many volumes regaling the populace with further aspersions on the Queen's character, while her husband, back in France, made a very decent living getting paid by the Rohan family not to write his memoirs. She did in England what she had always done in France: she whored. She fell out the second-floor window of a London house of ill repute, to her death.

Other things bother me: The necklace itself is a rather slim, cut-rate and unattractive version of the documented original. Marie Antoinette was not tall, spindly, stoop-shouldered and bustless, no matter how effective Joely Richardson's performance is otherwise. Most of the source music heard in this film was never heard within several country miles of the French court, namely Vivaldi, Haendel, Mozart and various English baroque composers (Saints preserve us!). The ditty 'Plaisir d'amour' (misspelled in the end titles) was never part of a stage presentation. The film's main titles and theatrical trailer are disgraced by a nondescript and rather hair-raising piece sung by Alanis Morrissette, which sounds to all the world like an African mass sung in Gaelic (What were they thinking?!).

In the film's defence, it was shot in Versailles, it does show amazing detail, occasional accuracy, spurts of brilliance and a vigorous rhythm. Furthermore, it never stoops to the detailed depictions of bodily functions and gory acts of sadistic violence that have become the hallmark of recent euro-trash pseudo-historical epics (La Reine Margot, Elizabeth, Farinelli, Le Roi danse, Vatel, Ridicule, to name a few). It is infinitely more historically accurate than, say, Gladiator, but that's not saying much.

My favourite quote about this film comes from Rick Groen in Toronto's Globe and Mail who wrote: 'If life, as Keats suggests, is a 'mansion of many apartments', then this plot is its wrecking ball.'

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

loved it loved it loved it

Author: dramadiva102
9 January 2004

I have to disagree with just about every critic in the world. I completely love this movie. (No spoilers that wouldn't come from a preview or the back of the movie box included)

True, there is constant voice-over narriation. But this based-on-a-true-story-scandal movie involves a complicated plot. Without the help of one of our tried-and-true secondary characters. The historical characters, though obviously given modern color, are convincingly portrayed. Hilary Swank gives innocent looks as she lies shamelessly. As the plot thickens, so does the number of fun players. Christopher Walken seems to relish in his part of mystical cheater. Adrian Brody seems to really enjoy playing the philandering jerk, banging back whiskey and happily flirting with all young actresses (street-walkers) he sees. Jonathan Pryce actually made me fear him as the corrupt cardinal. Impressive from the man I last saw as the kindly father in Pirates of the Carribean.

The most lovable character, by far, is Retaux. The cheerful court-wise gigilo mutters some of the funniest lines in the movie, and runs a full gamut of emotions, from flirtatious to distraught.

Joely Richardson plays a WONDERFUL ultimately doomed by history queen. Her sweet naievety combined with indifferent ignorance paints a reasonably possible image of the French monarchy at the time.

Oh sure, the movie's not totally perfect. Really, there are two things that bothered me. (1) The all over the place accents. But I'm willing to forgive it. After all, the movie's set in France. They're not speaking French, so they're not going to fool me into thinking they're French anyway. (2) The sunglasses worn by Joely Richardson and Christopher Walken. Quite forgivable, but still made my eyebrows raise.

On the whole this movie exceeded my expectations tenfold. The great costumes, powerful music, and tense time period give the actors a playground where it's next to impossible to fall flat. But not a one of them would have anyway.

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