Maybe - just maybe - there was a better choice for a director for "Affair of the Necklace" than Charles Shyer. Formerly part of a husband/wife writing/directing team with Nancy Meyers, the director has previously participated in such lightweight - although admittedly fairly well-crafted - family entertainment, such as the "Father of the Bride" series and Disney's remake of its "Parent Trap". It's not that Shyer has done everything wrong here - he and his cast and crew have crafted an incredibly gorgeous feature, full of stunning imagery and luxurious period sets.
Unfortunately, the picture also comes up lacking in most other areas. The film stars Hilary Swank as Jeanne de la Motte-Valois (I think I'll just call her Jeanne for the rest of this review), a woman who seeks to restore her family name and buy back the family estate that she lost when she was orphaned. As she finds out, it's not going to be as easy as simply petitioning government. Although locked into a marriage of convienience, Jeanne befriends Retaux de Vilette (Simon Baker), who teaches the young woman more about the ways that society functions and also helps to hatch a scheme to get her the money to buy her land back.
Jeanne plans to get the Cardinal de Rohan (Jonathan Pryce), who wants to be the prime minister, to buy an enormous and expensive diamond necklace for the Queen. In reality, the Queen had turned down the necklace, but the Cardinal doesn't know that. Jeanne and her fellow schemers forge letters to help their plan work, but at the same time they're actually selling off the necklace. Another filmmaker could have added more suspense and tension to all the planning, but Shyer hardly succeeds in making it even remotely involving. The slow-paced picture runs two hours, but often felt like three or more.
Frankly, I thought much of this film was boring enough to make my eyes cross. Tons of voice-over narration is layered upon the film, when it's obvious what's going on in the story. The narration succeeds at nothing but dragging down the pace of a movie that's awfully slow to begin with. If viewers didn't already get what was going on, the characters often start chattering unnecessarily about what's currently taking place. Shyer has somehow been able to convince a legion of very talented actors - Christopher Walken, Jonathan Pryce, Joely Richardson, etc. to take part in this production and none of them seem very interested in their characters. There's not a single involving or very passionate performance out of any of them, with the exception of Walken, who seems to have gotten the idea to go over-the-top because everything else around him has already fallen apart, so why not? Swank has proved elsewhere that she as an actress with potential, but she's wrong for this role, feeling out-of-place in a period setting and looking overwhelmed by her role and surroundings.
Shyer has not made a film that I would describe as a disaster, but it's in that neighborhood. Instead he has made a bland film - a blank film, with very little in the story that I found compelling. I definitely wanted my two hours back afterwards.
VIDEO: Warner Brothers presents "Affair of the Necklace" in a nearly flawless 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen offering. The beautiful cinematography and remarkable lighting looks wonderful throughout this presentation, which boasts excellent sharpness and detail, along with good depth to the image in most scenes.
The only fault that really needed to be discussed was edge enhancement; while certainly not very distracting, a slight amount was noticed in a couple of scenes. No pixelation was spotted, nor were any print flaws. Colors appeared rich, well-saturated and vivid, with no smearing. Black level remained strong, while flesh tones were accurate.
SOUND: "Affair of the Necklace" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. While I expected a dialogue-driven costume drama, the picture's audio actually made decent use of the surrounds at a few points, most noticably during a chase sequence about an hour into the film. Although rarely that active, a pleasant amount of ambience was offered, while the score had strong presence and was nicely reinforced by the rear speakers.
MENUS: Elegant and nicely designed menus, but no animation.
EXTRAS: Although the film did not fare well in theaters, Warner Brothers has still provided a fair amount of supplements, including a commentary from director Charles Shyer. However, the most entertaining supplement is one I doubt anyone would think they'd find on the DVD of a period film - the gag reel, in my opinion, was actually more entertaining than anything in the feature. Two documentaries, one focusing on the costume design and the other a general "making of", are also included. Rounding out the supplemental section are cast/crew bios, the theatrical trailer and 5 deleted scenes with optional commentary.
Final Thoughts: A beautifully filmed but positively hollow and unpassionate picture, I found "Affair of the Necklace" to be almost remarkably dull. However, Warner Brothers has provided a fine DVD, with excellent audio/video quality and a fair amount of supplements. Although those who found the film enjoyable in the theater may seek a purchase of the DVD, I strongly disliked the film and would not recommend it.