Grace of Monaco Review

There must have been a time when the production of Grace of Monaco was itself a fairytale: a bankable biopic destined to sweep awards season, while drawing in a specific demographic (who pick films based on the poster and nothing else). The director, Olivier Dahan, is a pro at this type of fare, having scored commercial success not long ago with La Vie en Rose, another historical drama that won its lead an Oscar for Best Actress. This time, rather than Marion Cotillard, he has the ever-reliable Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, the Hollywood actress who became a princess; fame and royalty, both entwined in a screenplay that circulated for years with much admiration. With Harvey Weinstein on board, nothing could go wrong. Right?Well, it’s hard to ignore the calamitous reception awaiting Grace of Monaco when it opened this year’s Cannes to widespread derision. Years from now, Peter Bradshaw’s zingers will probably be more remembered than Kidman’s disturbingly inert performance. Beginning in LA, 1956, it’s made clear that Dahan takes the subject matter seriously: slow movements, endless strings, the whole frame decorated by flowers. Kelly was already a star from Rear Window and The Country Girl, whom then had the fortune – or, rather, misfortune – of marrying Rainier (Tim Roth), otherwise known as the Prince of Monaco. Basically, she swapped one fairytale for another by becoming a princess.imageCrucially, both fairytales couldn’t overlap – a Venn diagram made explicit by a clunky cameo by Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Alfred Hitchcock, requesting she considers a role in Marnie. Ironically, for a film so concerned about someone who dreams of being on-screen, the general standard of acting is disarmingly low: lines are delivered without conviction as if the cast weren’t really sure how to emote, while the haphazard editing leaves many signs of post-production mangling. It might just be the distractions of an extravagant set that comes with an expensive wardrobe and a set design intent on flaunting disposable wealth. The other diversion might be the idiosyncratic fixations applied to each character in an unintentional dehumanising manner. Take, for instance, Roth’s forced inclination to smoke whenever he utters flat dialogue; romance, war and sovereignty are all reduced to passive statements.Given the fractured nature of the central storyline (despite its integral role in history and Kelly’s life), it’s unsurprising that subplots also lack vigour. Even indie favourite Parker Posey fails to bring life through the role of Madge Tibey-Faucon, an impatient lady-in-waiting. The tiredness does at least fit in with Kelly’s claustrophobia within her relationship, with Rainier denying her the chance to act – seeing as being a princess is a performance in itself. She’s locked up in the palace and picks up “movement lessons while the camera zooms in on a symbolic parrot.“When people dream of marrying royalty, they rarely comprehend what that means,” Kelly is informed. It’s near impossible to empathise given the thinness of the screenplay that one might gleam as a writing exercise gone wrong. The script was at one point on the Hollywood Black List and was part of a bidding war, which suggests the final product is a stubborn compromise involving rewrites and shouting matches. Dahan’s direction is certainly heavy with its score, as if to make up for the emptiness. While Grace of Monaco is far from the clunker one might expect from its Cannes reception, the best that can be said is that it’s occasionally boring; at least Diana had some sense of fun. There’s just no weight behind the actions or emotions behind the eyes. “The world needs Grace Kelly back on the big screen now,” insists Hitchcock. At the end is a final message on screen: “Grace Kelly never acted again.”



out of 10

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