Genre: Drama, Romance, Biography
Directed by: Olivier Dahan
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Parker Posey
While it may be considered a badge of honour to have your film booed at the Cannes Film Festival, to have it met with unintentional laughter fails to evoke a similar sense of pride. Indeed, the reception that greeted Grace of Monaco, this year’s opening night premier, was so universally negative it led to one UK paper publishing an article that actively searched for a critic who had a nice thing to say about it. To sit down and review such a film with an open mind is a laborious task in itself. However, one can also not prepare to watch Grace Of Monaco,without momentarily thinking that it can’t be that bad.
Though it’s billed as a biopic, Grace Of Monaco begins with a statement affirming its narrative is fiction, but asserting the events that surround it are real. Put simply, Grace Kelly was the Princess of Monaco, she was married to Prince Reiner, and in 1962 relationships between Monaco and France were tested over a disagreement in tax laws. The rest however, which involves Kelly battling to save both her marriage and Monaco, has since been accurately labelled by Kelly’s son Prince Albert II as a “farce”.
Indeed, “farce” would appear to be the optimum word to use when analysing the film. With such ostentatious characterization and a toe-curling script, the one emotion Grace Of Monaco is consistently able to yield from its audience is embarrassment.
Perhaps the most baffling element of the film is the cast. No character, at any one point, feels natural here. Nicole Kidman is an undoubtedly talented actress, yet her Grace Kelly is never anything more than a mere caricature who can only ever really express herself using a set amount of facial expressions. Meanwhile, the usually reliable Tim Roth is reduced to the role of expressionless moustache, or Prince Reiner to give him his full title. Frank Langella occasionally pops up as a priest who mainly speaks in monologues, guiding both Princess Grace and the audience through the superfluous narrative. Robert Lindsey proves a dab hand at truly terrible accents, Derek Jacobi finds himself typecast as an offensively camp Count, while Roger Ashton-Griffiths fails to play Alfred Hitchcock, but succeeds in parodying him.
Though it is all undeniably amusing, it is also relentlessly frustrating. From beginning to end it feels as if director Olivier Dahan’s only interest is to try and somehow draw an emotional response from his audience. The camera suddenly zooming in to Kidman’s face, barely stopping short of having her nose touch the lens, signify times of great emotional distress for Grace. While a costume change and a quick move to the centre of the frame, indicates a moment of great strength. So focused is Dahan on achieving his simplistic goal, that any opportunity to inject depth in either the narrative or the characters is dispensed with in favour of yet another warmly lit image of overstressed emotion or sparkling glamour.
Of course, you could try and argue that the whole film is an ironic statement of the fairy-tale aesthetic, which is monotonously referenced throughout. But even if it is, the film remains so lifeless and uninvolving that you’d be unlikely to care. The struggle to find a critic who took a shine to Grace Of Monaco is likely to continue indefinitely. However, if you’re solely looking for a positive comment, there’s an inescapable sense of joy… once the final credits start to roll.