The Affair of the Necklace

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The Affair of the Necklace
Affair of the necklace.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Shyer
Produced byCharles Shyer
Andrew Kosove
Broderick Johnson
Redmond Morris
Written byJohn Sweet
Starring Hilary Swank
Jonathan Pryce
Simon Baker
Adrien Brody
Joely Richardson
Christopher Walken
Narrated by Brian Cox
Music by David Newman
CinematographyAshley Rowe
Edited by David Moritz
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures (United States)
Summit Entertainment (United Kingdom)
Release date
  • November 30, 2001 (2001-11-30)(limited)
  • December 7, 2001 (2001-12-07)(United States)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million
Box office$471,210

The Affair of the Necklace is a 2001 American historical drama film directed by Charles Shyer. The screenplay by John Sweet is based on what became known as the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, an incident that helped fuel the French populace's disillusionment with the monarchy and, among other causes, eventually led to the French Revolution. [1] The film received negative reviews from critics, but the sets, music and costume design were widely praised. [2]



Jeanne de Saint-Rémy de Valois, orphaned at an early age, is determined to reclaim her noble title and the home taken from her family when she was a child. When she is rebuffed by Marie Antoinette and fails to achieve her goal through legal channels, she joins forces with the arrogant, well-connected gigolo Rétaux de Villette and her own wayward, womanizing husband Nicholas. They concoct a plan to earn her enough money to purchase the property.

In 1772, King Louis XV had commissioned Parisian jewellers Boehmer & Bassenge to create an opulent 2,800-carat (560 g), 647-diamond necklace to present to his mistress Madame du Barry, but the king died before it was completed. Hoping to recover the high cost of the necklace, its creators try to persuade Queen Marie Antoinette to purchase it. Knowing its history, she declines.

Jeanne approaches debauched libertine Cardinal Louis de Rohan and introduces herself as a confidante of the Queen. For years the Cardinal has yearned to regain the Queen's favor and acquire the position of Prime Minister of France, and when he is reassured by occultist Count Cagliostro that Jeanne is legitimate, he allows himself to be seduced by her promise to intervene on his behalf. He begins to correspond with the Queen and is unaware that his letters to her are intercepted and the Queen's responses are forgeries intended to manipulate him. The tone of the letters becomes very intimate. The cardinal becomes more and more convinced that Marie Antoinette is in love with him, and he becomes ardently enamored of her.

Jeanne allegedly arranges a meeting between the two in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. Portraying the Queen is Nicole Leguay d'Oliva, a prostitute bearing some resemblance to her. Heavily cloaked, with her face in the shadows, she agrees to forget their past disagreements. The Cardinal believes his indiscretions have been forgiven and he once again is in the Queen's good favor.

Jeanne advises the Cardinal the Queen has decided to purchase the necklace but, not wanting to offend the populace by openly buying such an expensive trinket, she wishes him to do so on her behalf, with a promise to reimburse him for the cost by the Feast of the Assumption. The Cardinal gladly agrees and presents the necklace to Rétaux de Villette, believing him to be an emissary from the Queen. Nicholas de Lamotte sells some of the diamonds, and Jeanne uses the profits to buy her family home.

The Cardinal begins to panic when Jeanne disappears and his correspondence with the Queen comes to an abrupt end. Nicholas is almost arrested for selling without proper certification, but he escapes. Jeanne advises him to not sell anymore diamonds in Paris. She sends correspondence to the jewelers, saying that Antoinette is no longer interested in the necklace and they must ask the Cardinal for reimbursement. However, Minister Breteuil comes upon an anxious Boehmer on his way to the Cardinal's estate. The Cardinal is invited to visit the palace on the Feast of the Assumption, at which time he assumes he will be repaid in full and named Prime Minister. Instead, King Louis XVI, who has been made aware of his machinations by Minister Breteuil, has him imprisoned in the Bastille. Soon to follow are everyone else involved in the plot, excluding Nicholas who fled to the boarder and into Austria. A trial finds the Cardinal, Count Cagliostro, and Nicole Leguay d'Oliva innocent of all charges. Rétaux de Villette is found guilty and banished from France. Jeanne is found guilty and whipped and branded before being imprisoned; she later escapes to London where she publishes her memoirs and regales the locals with her tales. Eventually, Marie Antoinette, assumed to be a key player in the affair by an increasingly angry and restless populace, meets her fate on the guillotine. Via an epilogue, Breteuil explains that Jeanne never returned to France as she died after falling from her hotel room window and was rumored to have been killed by Royalists.




Filming locations included the Palace of Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Alincourt, Compiègne, and Paris in France, and St. Barbara Church, Lednice, and Valtice in the Czech Republic. Interiors were filmed at the Barrandov Studios in Prague.


The soundtrack included "Movement I: Mercy" by Alanis Morissette and Jonathan Elias, "Le Réjouissance - Allegro" and "Allegro from Sonata" by Georg Friedrich Händel, "Beatus vir" by Claudio Monteverdi, "The Four Seasons, Summer - First Movement" by Antonio Vivaldi, "Aire A6 in G Minor" by William Lawes, "Exsultate, Jubilate", and "Requiem Aeternam, Dies Irae" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and "Heidenröslein" by Franz Schubert. [3]

Historical facts


Critical reception

The Affair of the Necklace earned negative reviews from critics, with most of the criticism focusing on the casting of Hilary Swank as Jeanne, whom they felt didn't seem comfortable within the film's period setting and refined dialogue. The costume design and stylized period setting however were widely praised. The film currently holds a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 62 review [10] and holds a Metacritic score of 42 based on 22 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews" . [11]

CNN Entertainment praised Hilary Swank and Charles Shyer's contributions to the film, writing, "Writer/director/producer Charles Shyer is known for such lightweight comedies as Baby Boom and Father of the Bride, but he's made a major change with this lavish period piece, shot in Prague on a modest $30 million budget. He also took somewhat of a chance with Oscar winner Hilary Swank in the leading role. Her graphic portrayal of Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry (1999) gave no hint as to whether or not she could pull off [an] 18th-century drama complete with feathered hats and tight corsets. She can." [12]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Shyer and Sweet bring consistent clarity and ever-increasing depth to the playing out of Jeanne's bold scheming and single-minded resolve; a tone of brisk wit gives way effortlessly to poignancy and ultimately tragedy." [13]

Richard Roeper found the film to be very entertaining and was willing to overlook the script's historical liberties, stating "I'm sure that it's sort of a 'Fractured Fairy Tale' version of the real events that happened, but the fact that it was inspired by real-life events made me enjoy it all the more."[ citation needed ]


The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design and the Satellite Award for Best Costume Design, but lost to Moulin Rouge! in both instances. [2]

Related Research Articles

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Cardinal de Rohan

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<i>The Queens Necklace</i> Novel by Alexandre Dumas

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Rétaux de Villette French prostitute

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Marie Louise de Rohan Countess of Marsan

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