wed 19/06/2024

Grace of Monaco | reviews, news & interviews

Grace of Monaco

Grace of Monaco

Nicole Kidman grits her teeth and gives it some Grace in Olivier Dahan's biopic

"Please tell me this film isn't shit": Nicole Kidman begins to regret signing on for 'Grace of Monaco'

Sometimes a film captures the imagination of the critical establishment for all the wrong reasons, and there's a scramble to see who can file the most entertainingly bitchy copy.

And so it is with Grace of Monaco, which emerges from the vipers' nest that is the Cannes Film Festival (and from a very public spat between director Olivier Dahan and the co-chairman of the film's US distributor, Harvey Weinstein) covered in vicious puncture wounds, ridiculously ruffled and resigned to take it all over again on general release. But can it really be that awful?

As expected - and as anyone looking forward to this one might have feared - Grace of Monaco bears ample comparison to the recent Diana and not just in the delighted derision with which it's been greeted by critics. It too focuses on a moist-eyed, fish-out-of-water heroine and approaches its subject (or should that be its master) with a smothering reverence. Yet Diana actually evolved into something else - playing out like a comedy with our bumbling royal being introduced to the likes of Chicken Cottage and the backseat of an Astra - whereas Grace is more conventionally bad; directorially it is actually a lot more daring but almost every artistic decision is spectacularly misjudged.

The film begins in 1956 as Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) wraps production on a picture to adoring applause, before skipping forward five years to find her marriage to Monaco's Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth, pictured below right with Kidman) in crisis and Alfred Hitchcock (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) trying to persuade her back to Hollywood by offering her the starring role in Marnie. We of course know how that turned out. Meanwhile Rainier is battling the French President Charles de Gaulle (André Penvern) who - tired of affluent French citizens taking up residence in the nearby principality - is insisting that Monaco introduce an income tax, and that they pay the proceeds to France.

Grace's confidante is Father Francis Tucker (Frank Langella) who shadows her in his full priestly garb with an assiduousness that's so eerie it wouldn't be a surprise if the film were suddenly to reveal that he had been dead for many years and was in fact her ghostly companion. This bizarreness reaches its peak during a scene where we find Grace weeping as she considers returning to acting and watches back footage from her wedding day. The camera zooms out to find Father Tucker seated on the sofa beside her, suggesting he's come round for movie night and she's oddly opted to screen her wedding video. In lieu of sage advice he tells her insensitively and highly improbably, "Now you're just a housewife with two bratty kids watching reruns of your wedding day", while the camera drifts distractingly about her teary face in extreme close-up as if unsure where to rest.

It's a scene that's characteristic of Dahan's unhinged approach; there are lots of searching close-ups (he seems to be obsessed with Kidman's eyes) as if just by seeing things in absurd magnification we will glean some psychological insight - despite, that is, an entirely unilluminating script from Arash Amel, which is rooted largely in insane speculation.

Kidman has enough screen charisma to ensure that her histrionics are watchable if not exactly admirableFurthermore, the whole film comes across like wealth porn, with its lavish (admittedly beautiful) production design and that swooping, awestruck camera which unashamedly revels in the grandeur - whilst contradictorily turning Monaco into the heroic-little-principality-that-can in a classic little-guy-against-the-big-guy narrative. When the little guy is a tax haven this approach becomes very problematic indeed, as is the way the film lauds Grace's Stepford Wives / My Fair Lady-esque reinvention.

Despite or (let's be honest) because of its ineptitude, I quite enjoyed Grace of Monaco particularly in its mad flamboyance, while Kidman - an actress whom I have a lot of time for - has enough screen charisma to ensure that her histrionics are watchable if not exactly admirable. In addition, every now and again some usually reliable actor pops up to do something enjoyably embarrassing: Roth sports an unpleasant moustache which makes him look like a mole; Derek Jacobi's hair suggests a recent electric shock; Parker Posey seems to be channelling Mrs Danvers; Ashton-Griffith makes for a leaden, phoney Hitchcock in a performance which makes Anthony Hopkins look like he nailed it; while Paz Vega and Robert Lindsay go for maximum volume with their exuberant Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis impersonations.

But, in answer to my original question, yes, Grace of Monaco is basically crap as well as being horribly misconceived. There might not be very many of them but Kelly's movies are her legacy; by concentrating on the dutiful princess mounting a dubious defence of a millionaire's paradise the film sells a woman of great talent depressingly short.


Overleaf: watch the trailer for Grace of Monaco



The whole film comes across like wealth porn


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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