Hilary Swank, Jonathan Pryce, Joely Richardson, Simon Baker, Brian Cox
Blame it on the sophomore jinx. In her first starring role since 1999's Boys Don't Cry, Hilary Swank (who had a supporting role in last winter's The Gift) comes a cropper. It's not all her fault. No one—and there are some mighty impressive names up there onscreen with her—could shine in this deadly dull costume drama set in pre-Revolutionary France.
Based on real events and directed by Charles Shyer (Father of the Bride II), The Affair of the Necklace has Swank playing Jeanne de la Motte-Valois, a disinherited aristocrat who will stop at nothing to get her family estate back. To make her fortune, she hatches a complex scheme that involves manipulating Queen Marie Antoinette (Richardson), a lascivious cardinal (Pryce) and other powerful figures, as well as taking possession of, yes, a dazzling diamond necklace. Her nefarious doings play a role in the eventual overthrow of the royal family.
Swank poses prettily in her sumptuous costumes but seems at a loss as to what motivates her vengeful character. Richardson's Marie Antoinette emerges as the film's only sympathetic figure, a cream puff who longs not to be taken lightly. (R)