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Film Review: Grace of Monaco


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Olivier Dahan, the director of Grace of Monaco, was adamant in an interview that his film about the post-Hollywood life of Grace Kelly was not a biopic. “I need to make films that resonate with me and my feelings”, he continued. “I would find it boring to have to depict facts only focusing on a character's story”. Heaven knows, then, what Grace of Monaco would have turned out like had he focused on the facts because, as it stands, the film is a bland, uninspiring and wholly misjudged affair.

 Dahan's ill-fated quest to discover Grace Kelly in a more “personal” way begins with Alfred Hitchcock (played by Roger Ashton-Griffiths) visiting Princess Grace in her palace in Monaco, attempting to persuade her back in front of the camera for his upcoming film Marnie. But Grace is concerned that a move back to Hollywood, if only temporary, would spell disaster for her marriage to Prince Rainier III and for Monaco, embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with France. And so, the film sees Princess Grace attempt to reconcile herself with her potential roles in the world: those of film star, princess and mother.

In many ways, this had the potential to be an intriguing, dynamic character study, following one of the most famous actresses of all time as she made a radical transition from Hollywood to European monarchy. In reality, however, it seems as though screenwriter Arash Amel grew the script in his garden: it is unbelievably wooden and totally superficial. In fact, you could fashion a very nice side-table from the dialogue which is both toe-curling and uninspiring in equal measure. Nicole Kidman does look the part of Grace Kelly, floating around the palace in pretty frocks and occasionally butting in on matters of politics (much to her husband's annoyance). Each scene, however, is plagued by the appalling and lethargic screenplay which is the film's fundamental weakness.

Much of the plot is centred around the – frankly rather dull – minor diplomatic crisis in 1962, which saw France briefly blockade Monaco as Charles de Gaulle was angered by its reputation as a tax haven. Cue, then, dramatic shots of Grace marching up to the barbed wire, offering food to the French forces and tense scenes in the palace as she rushes down the corridors in search of a traitor in her husband's court, and a plethora of dodgy French accents, last heard coming from the mouth of Inspector Clouseau. The whole thing is laughable.

Tim Roth, in the role of her husband, seems to get through about five cigarettes per scene and lounges about the palace as if he's given up on the whole monarchy thing: quite why Grace married him is a mystery. Surely it can't have been for the countless dresses, hats and diamonds which make the film look like an extended Dior commercial. The camera certainly moves with a deferential and rather inert attitude towards its subject: Dahan seems so keen to get under the skin of Grace that his extreme close-ups threaten to become medical examinations of Kidman. Emotional turmoil must be in there somewhere!

In an attempt to secure favour with the people of Monaco, Grace seeks education on matters of etiquette, history and language from Derek Jacobi's Count Fernando D'Aillieres and confides in Father Francis Tucker for guidance. Frank Langella plays Father Tucker and seems to be the only cast member who can make the dialogue seem less hammy and more like a natural conversation, but even he can't lift the film from the depths of awfulness to which it plunged in the first fifteen minutes.

Both Kidman and Dahan have emphasised that Grace of Monaco is not an historical film or an accurate biopic of Kelly's life as a princess.  But if it is not this, just what is it? There is no reason for its existence, no spark, no energy which could have made for a deep and telling film. In the end, the whole affair is poorly-constructed and staggering in its deference to characters that, surely, have an interesting story to tell. Kidman's performance is to be admired, if only for its sheer good-will. In the end, Grace of Monaco is a film so limp that not even Grace Kelly herself could have saved it.

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