You've heard of the stupidity of casting pearls before swine? Well, Charles Shyer's cautionary tale is about the folly of casting diamonds before swindlers.
Silly jewelers! They don't know that the queen keeps Jeanne at scepter's length. Even so, the comely and conniving countess has gulled courtiers - including the Cardinal de Rohan (Jonathan Pryce) - into thinking she is Antoinette's confidante.
Jeanne has her own agenda. The royals disenfranchised and killed her father because he was a progressive. Shunned by Antoinette, Jeanne figures that by liquidating the 2,800-carat necklace - resembling a chandelier for the bodice - she can buy back the family estate.
For us democratic (and puritanical) Americans, the fun of before-the-revolution sagas is that we get to vicariously indulge in excess, watch the excessives get purged, and then feel morally virtuous when they do. We get to have it both ways.
Unfortunately, Shyer's film denies us the double dip of vice and virtue. It's moralistic. Its failure (and it's hard to say whether the director or screenwriter John Sweet is at fault) is that the miscast (or misdirected) Hilary Swank's Jeanne takes so little pleasure in coquetry and manipulation.
Even Christopher Walken, an actor who can't help but be entertaining (here he's the cardinal's friend, the adventurer Cagliostro), looks like a promising actor who borrowed a Broadway costume for the high school play.
The Affair of the Necklace **
Produced by Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Charles Shyer and Redmond Morris; directed by Shyer; written by John Sweet; photography by Ashley Rowe; music by David Newman; distributed by Warner Bros.
Running time: 1 hour, 58 mins.
Jeanne. . . Hilary Swank
Cardinal de Rohan. . . Jonathan Pryce
Retaux de Vilette. . . Simon Baker
Nicolas De La Motte. . . Adrien Brody
Parent's guide: R (nudity, sexuality, profanity
Showing at: UA Riverview