The affair of the necklace directed by Charles Shyer, written by John Sweet, produced by Shyer, Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson and Redmond Morris, with Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Baker, Joely Richardson and Christopher Walken. 120 minutes. A Warner Brothers release. Opens Friday (November 30). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 101. Rating: N
hilary swank has been hit by the dreaded Oscar curse. Like recent winners Gwyneth Paltrow and Helen Hunt, Swank -- who picked up her best- actress statuette in 1999 for Boys Don't Cry -- hasn't shone in a role since taking home the trophy. She had a small part in The Gift playing an abused woman, but she did little except shake while smoking and look wretchedly unhappy. I'm sure she was looking forward to taking centre stage in director Charles Shyer's The Affair Of The Necklace, in which she plays 18th-century French aristocrat Jeanne de la Motte-Valois, who engineers an elaborate con to take possession of an opulent necklace (2,800 carats, 647 diamonds) coveted by Marie Antoinette.
Unfortunately, The Affair Of The Necklace is a really bad movie, and Swank is left holding the smelly bag. She drifts along, not sure how to play this essentially cruel woman who manipulates the French court so she can obtain the money to buy back her childhood villa, which was usurped by the royal family when she was a child. Shyer and writer John Sweet want us to feel sorry for Jeanne, but how can we? -- she's doing vindictive things to nasty people just so she can take her place among those same nasty people.
Swank might have fared better if she could hold onto an accent for a full sentence -- she goes from British to southern Californian in a matter of words. But at least we're not laughing at her, which isn't the case with Christopher Walken, who plays a mesmerist, complete with Bride Of Frankenstein wig and a waxed moustache that could gouge your eyes out. It's laugh-out-loud funny listening to him utter lines like "I shall mesmerize you." I wish he could have made it all go away.