That this affair may have precipitated the fall of Marie Antoinette and various other guillotine candidates is the most intriguing part of this "Dangerous Liaisons" wannabe.
"Good name in man and woman . . . is the immediate jewel of their souls," says Shakespeare’s Iago. "The Affair of the Necklace" plays on that metaphor as it chronicles the attempt of 18th century Jeanne Valois (Hilary Swank) to reclaim the estate and good name of her family after its seizure by the pre-revolution French crown. There can be no other possible similarity to the Bard's work beyond my quote.
That this affair may have precipitated the fall of Marie Antoinette and various other guillotine candidates is the most intriguing part of this "Dangerous Liaisons" wannabe. Perhaps just as intriguing is Christopher Walken as the infamous Cagliostro, the legendary wizard-charlatan, who helps Swank maneuver for the title treasure and her family estate. Walken looks like a Madame Toussaud composite of ancien regime bad guys with laughable wigs and brooding glances. Walken has more fun than anyone else in film history parodying himself.
Hilary Swank should never again be allowed to speak stilted Beaumarchais as if it were an "SNL" skit, and writer John Sweet should be flogged for dialogue such as this: "The wound in my ass is barking like a pack of hounds." Or: "Shit will rain on us in biblical amounts. I am not interested in becoming its catch basin."
Warning should be given to fine actors like Jonathan Pryce and Brian Cox that unless they play their roles for laughs, they will risk their audience’s suspicion that the actors believe the film is a legitimate work of art. No one could confuse this for art when it ends with Swank telling the court what she learned: "Honor is not in a name but what you carry in your heart."
The photography and costuming are first-rate, but director Charles Shyer should go back to "Smokey and the Bandit," Swank to "Boys Don't Cry," and Christopher Walken to "America's Sweethearts." We all should go to "The Royal Tenenbaums" for amusing and artful court intrigue.