Picks and Pans Review: The Affair of the Necklace

updated 12/10/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/10/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

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)

Bottom Line: Off with their heads

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