Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 2001. Alcon Entertainment. Screenplay by John Sweet. Cinematography by Ashley Rowe. Produced by Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Redmond Morris, Charles Shyer. Music by David Newman. Production Design by Alex McDowell. Costume Design by Milena Canonero. Film Editing by David Moritz. Academy Awards 2001.
Hilary Swank‘s faultless performance in this sudsy costume melodrama almost convinces you to forgive all the drawbacks that keep it from being great. She plays a mistreated woman of noble birth in the court of France’s Louis XVI whose land and title were stolen from her as a young girl, and now she will stop at nothing to get them back. The intrigue she creates, involving teaming up with a crafty gigolo (a very endearing Simon Baker) and duping a lecherous cardinal (Jonathan Pryce at his most energetic), is what this film is telling us is responsible for getting the French Revolution underway. Joely Richardson is magnetic as the misunderstood but irresponsible Marie Antoinette, but like all the actors in the film her hard work goes somewhat wasted: you never really get the feel that the film’s spiderweb plot is actually working towards getting Swank back her estates, so when she finally does it doesn’t seem like much of a victory. Thanks to director Charles Shyer not keeping his eye on the ball, the film loses so much of its possible impact, also not helped by the fact that Swank’s character keeps threatening to go somewhere emotionally as we watch her strength grow but never does.