In "Boys Don't Cry", Hilary Swank proved herself an actress of considerable depth. But however appealing and challenging "The Affair of The Necklace" may have appeared, there's no doubt that here she is considerably out of that depth.
Based on a true story, Swank is Jeanne St Remy de Valois, a down-on-her-luck Countess whose royal status was denied after her parents' death during the French Revolution. She meets a gigolo (Baker) who gives her the will to perpetrate an audacious swindle involving a sinful Cardinal (Pryce), Marie Antoinette (Richardson), and a 2,800-carat diamond necklace.
"Boys Don't Cry" was hardly an isolated accomplishment for Swank, but despite a valiant attempt, you are constantly left with the feeling that there are a dozen British actresses who could have handled this with greater aplomb.
She invites sympathy for Jeanne, with all her plucky vulnerability, but it would have been far more interesting to have her play a villain - as you'd have to be with a scam of this magnitude. As it is, her uncertainty with the material is only too evident.
Her supporting cast fare better, with Joely Richardson an imperious Marie Antoinette and Pryce's Cardinal de Rohan is a ripe rogue. As bogus psychic Count Cogliostro, Christopher Walken, replete with Trotsky goatee, is a humorous standout, mainly by merely being himself in period costume.
What is indisputable is that the film looks gorgeous, with magnficent sets and costumes by designer Milena Canonero providing the film's undoubted highlight. Even if Swank does struggle, she does it looking tremendous.
While director Charles Shyer, more at home with comedies, may have succeeded in creating an appropriate environment for all this skulduggery, he does so at the expense of coherent storytelling and drama. The result is a rather empty, yet opulent showcase.