Directed by Charles Shyer, starring Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Baker, Joely Richardson, Christopher Walken and Adrien Brody.

The Affair of the Necklace is a dramatisation of the so-called 'affaire du collier' scandal which is said by some, including Napoleon, to have been a contributory factor resulting in the French Revolution. The plot centres on a young woman, orphaned in childhood by the soldiers of King Louis XV, whose life becomes a quest to reclaim her royal birthright. Jeanne de la Motte-Valois (Swank) is the real-life protagonist who infiltrates the Court of Versailles and devises a scheme to win back her family home.

John Sweet's screenplay traces Jeanne's progress as she cunningly ascertains the desires of others in order to further her own ends. From her adulterous husband-of-convenience (Brody) to an illicit lover (Baker), a debauched Cardinal (Pryce) and a confidence trickster (Walken), an array of men prove themselves susceptible to her considerable wit and charm.

The actors play their roles with visible relish, putting in enjoyable, if mannered, performances complete with much posturing and a few slippery accents. Pryce is suitably despicable as the lecherous cleric while Walken, cast to type as the dangerous eccentric, creates an entertaining caricature. Swank, whose ever-changing face is accentuated by multiple close-ups, carries the film well as the strong heroine.

The movie emphasises the unforeseeable link between Jeanne's plot involving the eponymous jewels and the subsequent downfall of the monarchy. Much is made of the decadence of Marie-Antoinette (Richardson) and her infamous reputed indifference towards the starving masses. However, as with the representation of Jeanne, although in her case much more so, both actress and filmmaker allow for moments of sympathy and so the Queen is seen to be excessive as well as misunderstood.

The production highlights the modern parallels of this 18th century scandal, right down to the inevitable book deal. Beautifully shot and well lit throughout, it is an aesthetically pleasing examination of the great and the corrupt. Although rather pedestrian in its pacing and nothing more than sumptuous silliness at times, 'The Affair of the Necklace' is nevertheless a thoroughly watchable tale of passion and conspiracy which, curiously, manages to gain in strength towards its conclusion.

Siobhan Mannion