It'd be impossible for viewers stupid for historical costume dramas to resist this outstanding and lavish period romance based on Madame de La Fayette's story. Full of bloody, muddy sword fights and romantic reversals of fortune, Princess has various men vying for the affection of the heaving-bosomed, tightly corseted title character (Mélanie Thierry).
Most desirable is Henri de Guise (Gaspard Ulliel, himself most desirable), but the prince of Montpensier (Grégoire Leprince-Riguet) marries her instead. Their historically accurate wedding-night sex is particularly memorable. Of course, rivalries erupt. While the men are out fighting on the battlefield — it's the 16th century, so the Catholics and Huguenots are at odds — the princess becomes educated by Comte de Chabannes (Lambert Wilson). When everyone, including another handsome suitor, Duc d'Anjou (Raphaël Personnaz), returns to the castle, fabulous costume parties, clandestine romantic trysts, mistaken identities and intercepted messages ensue.
Director Bertrand Tavernier coaxes seductive performances from his entire cast, masterfully keeping audiences absorbed in the intrigue for two-plus hours. Although some viewers may want a scorecard to keep track of all the beautiful people (and clothes), Princess clearly conveys messages about reputation, sacrifice and heartbreak — dangerous liaisons that truly resonate.