GRACE OF MONACO
The story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly's (Nicole Kidman) crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco's Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth) and France's Charles De Gaulle (Andre Penvern), and a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s.
Review by Louise Keller:
Melodramatic from the outset, Grace of Monaco plays out like a sob-stricken soapie in which the former Hollywood star's acting career, relationships and reality are all treated in the same breathless, unbelievable manner. Rivalling Oliver Hirchbiegel's 2013 Diana for Razzie honours, Olivier Dahan’s film does not sing like his acclaimed 2007 La Vie en Rose, despite its classy ingredients. First and foremost, there's the exquisite municipality of Monaco, the South of France's glittering jewel that sparkles throughout in carefully edited and juxtaposed shots. In the title role, Nicole Kidman is dressed to kill and looks ravishing. Yet there's an artifice to everything about her - this is not one of her better roles.
Establishing Grace Kelly's movie career in the opening scene before a sea of flowers and a flash of newspaper headlines herald the royal fairytale wedding, the action begins at a lavish party on Ari Onassis' decadent yacht in December 1961. Colonialism is so last century, retorts Grace as the Algerian political situation is discussed. A screaming row between Grace and husband Prince Rainier (Tim Roth) follows in their (separate) bedrooms, as Grace despairs at not being able to speak her mind. The royal marriage is clearly not a fairy tale. Roth may be an unusual choice for Rainier - disconcertingly called 'Ray', but he is solid and eminently watchable in the role.
Alfred Hitchcock (Roger Ashton Griffiths, in an obscene caricature of a cameo) appears in several painful scenes as he tries to lure Grace back to Hollywood to play the frigid kleptomaniac Marnie. The suspense, deceit and betrayal you might find in a Hitchcock movie are all present here - except that none of it is remotely credible. The other key plot point is the political row between De Gaulle (André Penvern) and Rainier involving potential payment of income tax for which Grace is credited to have single handedly resolved. There is so much that could easily be ripped to shred - like the mish-mash of accents: an uncomfortable mix of British and heavy French accents. Then there is Kidman's British-American twang.
The characters are a strange bunch - the strangest of which is Parker Posey's Madge, a sombre, theatrical member of the palace who slinks around the corridors wearing black and a dour expression. Paz Vega might be a little over the top as Maria Callas (Robert Lindsay as Aristotle Onassis is also a caricature), but she brings some fire to the plastic. The scenes with Frank Langella and Derek Jacobi are the most credible and entertaining. Langella plays the priest who is Grace's confidante and with whom she can be herself, while Jacobi is the Count who trains the unhappy Grace to assume and play the role of Princess to perfection - or at least to deliver a semblance of it.
Kidman is breathless under her pearls and diamonds. She sheds crocodile tears and her 'Do-Gooder: I believe in love' speech at the 1962 Red Cross Ball in highly political circumstances, is chunderous. A choir plays, a soft breeze blows and there are gorgeous tight close ups - all to put a glossy frame around the purported fairy tale. There was a smattering of giggles by the audience of critics at the media screening when the title card stated this is a fictitious account of real events. Thank goodness that life does not imitate this travesty of a film, that takes artifice and melodrama to a pathetic new level.
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GRACE OF MONACO (PG)
CAST: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Parker Posey, Paz Vega, Frank Langella, Derek Jacobi, Geraldine Somerville, Roger Ashton Griffiths, Nicholas Farrell, Robert Lindsay, Andre Penvern
PRODUCER: Arash Amel, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
DIRECTOR: Olivier Dahan
SCRIPT: Arash Amel
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Gautier
EDITOR: Olivier Gajan
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan Weil
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 5, 2014