In pre-Revolutionary France, a young aristocratic woman left penniless by the political unrest in the country, must avenge her family's fall from grace by scheming to steal a priceless neckl... Read allIn pre-Revolutionary France, a young aristocratic woman left penniless by the political unrest in the country, must avenge her family's fall from grace by scheming to steal a priceless necklace.In pre-Revolutionary France, a young aristocratic woman left penniless by the political unrest in the country, must avenge her family's fall from grace by scheming to steal a priceless necklace.
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.
- Nov 26, 2006