Starring: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella
Genre: Drama/ Biopic
Having given up life in Hollywood as one of the most famous actresses of the time for life as a Princess married to Prince Rainier III (Roth) in the principality of Monaco, Grace Kelly (Kidman) is struggling to deal with her new life. After getting a visit from Alfred Hitchcock (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) offering her the lead role in his new film, she contemplates returning to Hollywood. However, there is an increasing threat from French President Charles de Gaulle to invade Monaco, while the residents of Monaco and high ranking officials within the principality take a dislike to Grace. She is now faced with the biggest decision of her life; to return to Hollywood or to stay and try and protect her family, her marriage and Monaco itself.
Almost seemingly written as an apologetic disclaimer to stop everyone criticising it for a wealth of historical inaccuracies, Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco opens with the statement “This is a fictional drama based on true events”. Well, being slightly creative with historical fact can be perfectly forgivable (glorifying tax evasion perhaps not so much), however that makes absolutely no difference when the actual story within the film is a total detritus. Grace of Monaco truly is a mess of a film, with a narrative that is all over the place, horrifically clunky dialogue and abominable performances.
Apparently there was quite a bitter feud between director Dahan and producer Harvey Weinstein as to what the final cut of the film should be, some all-time classics (A Touch of Evil, Bladerunner to name two) have had disputes over final cuts, and maybe there are other scenes that if included to the cut of the film would actually make Grace of Monaco an absolute classic.
I doubt it.
The first third of the film is truly all over the place; random scenes are just thrown together that are not linked by any sense of particularly coherent storytelling as random subplots and almost even more seemingly random characters are thrown in. Things do then settle down and at least the story makes a little more sense, unfortunately though it is a story that is rubbish and almost impossible to engage with due to the atrocious acting, horrific dialogue and the fact the actual story doesn’t really go anywhere.
Grace of Monaco is not shot particularly badly, with Dahan’s swooping camerawork and Eric Gautier’s cinematography at times visually stirring, but unfortunately Dahan seems to think that constant close-ups of Kidman’s Grace Kelly will be enough to make us care for the protagonist and understand some kind of apparent inner turmoil that she is going through. Though choosing millions of pounds for starring in a Hollywood movie or staying and living the life of a Princess is hardly the classic catch 22 tragic hero conundrum of Greek Tragedies!
No matter how many constant close-ups Dahan provides us with of Nicole Kidman’s brittle and seemingly constipated expression, it makes no difference; she is a character that is almost impossible to care about. The performance of a career would admittedly not be able to save the atrocious story and dialogue, and Kidman appears to be committed but her performance is ultimately a little two dimensional. However it is the rest of the cast that truly embarrass themselves; In particular Tim Roth who just chain smokes his way through scenes with an ultimately quite camp performance that ventures into parody and Robert Lindsay really hams it up, with an accent that could be anything. The rest of the cast are all the typical continental stereotypes that you only get in Hollywood films, and considering the director is actually French that makes things even worse. Only Frank Langella emerges without embarrassing himself, bringing some (but very wasted) emotional depth to his role of a priest that Grace Kelly confides in, but the story soon forgets about his character.
The film’s ending is atrocious and beyond lame, however to criticise it as much as I would like to would be spoiler territory, it should be a moment of tension and deep engagement, but it is embarrassingly stupid. Grace of Monaco has the occasional moments where it is so ridiculous that it is laughable, but it is actually in some ways quite a hard film to review because it is just 100 minutes of nothing. It is undeniably an atrocious film, but yet there is nothing worth getting irate about like so many films that are as equally bad as the messy narrative and the bad-to-the –point-of-parody dialogue ultimately make Grace of Monaco just a big steaming pile of nothing!
Dahan has insisted that this film is not a biopic. That is fine as with all sorts of wonderfully creative methods stories of real life characters can be used to examine bigger and more universal themes, and maybe Dahan and screenwriter Arash Amel wanted to examine the undeniable power of love and how it conquers all or some nonsense. Well, whatever they tried to do, they failed miserably!
A real mess of a film that is so bad it feels like it has to be a parody: Grace of Monaco is a truly dull drama that fails to engage thanks to a narrative that is all over the place, extremely clunky dialogue and pantomime acting. To see it is to believe just how bad it actually is, but that would then be 100 minutes of your life truly wasted.