With a rekindled interest in World History, Brian and I watched The Affair of a Necklace last night. With lavish costumes, resplendent sets and a compelling story it was a nice historical drama; a 3 on a 1-5 scale. The peculiar, controversial affair is part of a mosaic of incidences that lead the the abolition of the French Monarchy. After seeing Versailles last month we completely understand the rising French citizenry unrest that is the backdrop for the movie. Jonathan Pryce played a great Cardinal Rohan and Joely Richardson played a great Marie. Despite the splendor, something about the movie was just not quite there (at least for me). Even though it was interesting enough to keep me awake and wanting to know what was going to happen next, it’s just a good film with a good story. I am not surprised it didn’t make the critic’s list, nor that it was a financial disaster.
The true 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.
I personally think that Hillary Swank, who is a 2-time academy-award-winning actress, is miscast as Jeanne de Saint-Rémy de Valois. The rest of the cast works well with 18th-century France, however, she was not aristocratic enough. And, way too innocent and vulnerable. I was looking for nobility and vengency, somthing solid. This is a woman who masterminded a huge, complicated, intelligent, conniving, selfish, snake-y plot. The ordeal was so beautifully orchestrated (in real life) that it contributed to the Revolution. Jeanne must have been brilliant, desperate, dedicated, slightly evil and a great liar to pull off the real life scandal.
I wanted to believe the movie. I wanted to believe that Hillary did it. But, I didn’t. I really wanted to feel Hillary if you know what I mean. But, I could never decide if I pitied her or if she was a heroine. The character was flimsy.
About the music, for the majority of the movie 18th & 17th-century music is heard which is appropriate for a period picture. The weird thing was that “original,” new-age type music that sounded like Enya is played in parts of the movie. It ruined the moment. It reminded you that I was watching a movie made a couple of centuries after the event took place. My imagination left the screen pinching me on the cheek of reality.
The dripple of new age music coupled with far too naturalistic Hillary as the star made the movie unbelievable. This movie did not deliver the fury and charisma the occasion deserved.
Admittedly, this is a good film when good films are uncommon. Perfect, not by a long shot. 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. Or, if you want to see the Palace of Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Alincourt, Compiègne, and Paris in France this is fine opportunity.
Don’t worry about the music or the ill cast Swank, go rent this movie and get your early Frenchie on!
Tea at Trianon has a nice post on The Affair of the Necklace, too. You might want to check it out.
If you are interested, here is the cast:
|Hilary Swank||Jeanne de Saint-Rémy de Valois|
|Jonathan Pryce||Cardinal Louis de Rohan|
|Christopher Walken||Count Cagliostro|
|Simon Baker||Rétaux de Villette|
|Adrien Brody||Nicholas de Lamotte|
|Joely Richardson||Marie Antoinette|
|Brian Cox||Minister Breteuil/Narrator|
|Simon Shackleton||King Louis XVI|
|Hermoine Gulliford||Nicole Leguay d’Oliva|
|Hayden Panettiere||Young Jeanne de Saint-Rémy de Valois|