The Affair of the Necklace Reviews
Jeanne St. Remy de Valois (Hilary Swank) was, as a child (Hayden Panttiere), stripped of everything that was hers. Her father was Darnelle de Valois (James Larkin), descendant of a great house. The Valois blood ruled France for some 250 years and ran in the blood of English kings as well. And then (per the story, if not reality), the Bourbon family had her father destroyed because he championed the common people. Jeanne marries a noble, the Comte Nicolas De La Motte (Adrien Brody) to gain entry to court so that she may appeal to the Queen to get back her family name and home. A gigolo, Rétaux de Vilette (Simon Baker), convinces her to develop Cardinal Louis de Rohan (Jonathan Pryce), who is by blood a prince, as a patron. To do this, she and Vilette forge letters to convince the Cardinal that Jeanne is close in the Queen's confidence and that the Queen wishes to mend the strained relationship she has with the Cardinal. And, in the end, Jeanne convinces him that the way back into the Queen's good graces--and into her heart and even bed--is to stand surety for the purchase of an enormous, and frankly [i]hugely[/i] unattractive, necklace that the Queen supposedly desires.
It was an interesting stylistic choice for most of the costumes (nominated for an Oscar) to be so pale except for Jeanne, in her red; the Cardinal, in [i]his[/i] red--and one feels they'd have changed that were it not for ecclesiastical reasons!--and Count Cagliostro (Christopher Walken), in his black. The costume desinger asserts in the special features that she wants them all to look like ghosts. Indeed, most of the people in those elabourate scenes would become ghosts in just a very few years. We are only a decade or so away from the Reign of Terror. On the other hand, several of the most notable aspects of the era's costumes are left out--there is one shot where Marie Antoinette is wearing a birdcage, complete with real bird, in her wig, but the insane competition of skirts and wigs was not an aspect of costuming here. Indeed, a lot of the women aren't even wearing wigs. In short, beautiful but wrong.
In fact, that seems to be a pretty good summary of the whole thing. Leaving aside the fact that, bluntly, Hilary Swank is very bad at playing a French comtesse, her dialogue is still rather stiffly written. And, of course, Jeanne was not the last scion of a glorious French family. For one thing, I find it to say the least mildly unlikely that there were no other branches of the Valois family to carry on the name. She also had a sister and a brother, though, to be fair, none of the three had children. She was not exactly averse to, um, religious lessons with the Cardinal. And she did not do the whole thing with the ultimate goal of regaining her glorious family heritage. She was in it for the cash--though, as the impoverished daughter of a noble family, and with her family's Valois genealogy established, she received a pension. It just wasn't enough to keep her in the style to which she felt entitled.
And, of course, the whole thing helped bring the French monarchy down. While Marie Antoinette was almost certainly innocent of the affair--there is absolutely no historical evidence to suggest otherwise--the public did not quite see it that way. The French public was horribly oppressed. The French aristocracy lived in heedless luxury, spending more on clothes and such than on improvements to the country--though it is speculated that one of the reasons Marie Antoinette did not want the necklace was because she thought the money could better be spent outfitting a man-of-war. It's not that they were completely thoughtless, necessarily. It's that the whole of the court was so divorced from the reality at the time that the King and Queen could not see that taking the Cardinal's titles away despite his acquittal might not go over terribly well with the common people. However, the Queen did, even at the last, have diginity. Her final act was to accidentally step on the executioner's foot; her final words were to apologize for it.
It is funny, if not ironic, that the "aristocracy" of this website, the "t meter critics" and "cream of the crop" have voted the movie down as it certainly critiques the vanity of an establishment of their ilk.