Director: Olivier Dahan
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Pez Vega, Parker Posey, Robert Lindsay, Derek Jacobi, Milo Ventimiglia
Written by: Arash Amel
Running Time: 103 mins
Release date: 6th June 2014
Universally panned when it opened the Cannes Film Festival this year, the big question is: Is it as bad as people are making out it is? The answer is: absolutely! Sadly, it’s not laughably bad, just bad. You could say that it’s this year’s Diana and you would have thought Naomi Watts would have warned her fellow Australian actress, Nicole Kidman, to stay away from legendary princesses. She obviously didn’t get the e-mail.
Grace Kelly, Hollywood superstar, has married Prince Reiner of Monaco and is living the life of a fairy tale. That magical story hangs in the balance as Charles De Gaulle threatens to invade the small principality, while Grace has to decide if she wants to be a Princess or return to Hollywood and star in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie.
I don’t want to rip into this just yet so I will say that it does look lovely and somewhat magical. It has a bright and colourful feel when outside in the glorious sunshine while an orange hue covers the interiors scenes.
Now, sadly, for the negatives and really, where do I start? Director Olivier Dahan, who also made the dubious yet much better La Vie En Rose, has openly admitted that this is a work of fiction based on factual events. Yet the whole thing just comes across as fantasy. So we have Charles De Gaulle, who was already invading Algiers, wanting to invade Monaco because they don’t pay tax. As simple as that. Well if that’s the case, someone should invade Gary Barlow!
The dialogue isn’t as laugh out loud as Diana’s (Can you die from a broken heart?) but what does sit uncomfortably is the way all of the characters have to be openly introduced, either by other characters or by themselves. This happens every times a new person is introduced to the story. It just sounds odd.
Then we get a bizarre Pygmalion section in the middle of the film, in which Grace wants to learn how to be a Princess as is given French lessons and deportment, led by a very camp Count Fernando D’Aillieres, played by Derek Jacobi, with cravat and modern-day hairstyle, even though this is supposed to be the 60’s.
The cinematography, while beautiful when focusing on landscape, seems obsessed with Grace’s face. So much so, the camera is jammed into her face and you are just waiting for the moment when we get an extreme close-up of her ear, capturing the royal ear wax!
The performances range from quietly subtle to pantomime. Parker Posey brings out her inner Billie Whitelaw’s nanny from The Omen, playing Grace’s personal assistant, Madge Tivey-Faucon. Robert Lindsay grunts a few lines as Aristotle Onassis and Frank Langella is completely wasted as Catholic Priest and confidant to Grace, Father Francis Tucker.
Tim Roth seems to struggle how to play Prince Reiner and so goes for moddy and, in doubt, sup on a cigarette and the strangest moment comes from Geraldine Somerville as Reiner’s sister, Princess Antoinette, who, when told she is to leave Monaco forever, delivers her response in, what can only be described as, a parrot being strangled.
Finally there is Nicole Kidman. We know she is an outstanding actress but taking on Grace Kelly, she is, well, Nicole Kidman. There is very little character development and she speaks her lines like she wants to be a Disney Princess. In a scene similar to the opening of Diana, the camera slowly follows Grace from film set to dressing room, without the reveal of her face and then we see that…oh, it’s Nicole Kidman. Nothing about her looks like or has the air of Grace Kelly. So you spend the whole film watching Nicole Kidman and saying, yep, that’s Nicole Kidman.
The final act, a lavish ball in which De Gaulle is invited (something that never happened) is hilarious, as Grace takes to the stage to make a heart-felt speech that can change politics forever. Now we know how to stop the troubles in Russia.
Yes, Grace Of Monaco looks amazing and if you like beautiful photography, it does the job but this is a mess, a film that drags in places where it shouldn’t and keeps the audience awake with an in-your-face orchestral score. I only wish it was unintentionally funnier because it could have been up there with the best bad movies. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough cringe-worthy moments to make it to that list but it is still a huge turkey.