A fall from Grace for Nicole Kidman
Olivier Dahan’s fictionalised account of a turbulent year in the life of Hollywood actress Grace Kelly begins with newsreel footage of the Oscar-winning star’s lavish wedding to Prince Rainier III.
Grainy black and white images are complemented by effusive voiceover, which glowingly predicts the blonde starlet is “destined to live happily ever after with her charming prince”.
Alas, the fairytale doesn’t deliver a happy ever after for Grace Of Monaco, which must have required several blood transfusions following the barrage of razor-sharp critical barbs that greeted the film’s premiere in Cannes last month.
Undeniably, Dahan’s picture lacks substance and some of his directorial choices are misjudged such as photographing the porcelain features of Nicole Kidman in soft-focus close-up for every pivotal scene of emotional turmoil.
His camera drifts woozily between her bloodshot eyes and puckered lips as she delivers Arash Amel’s melodramatic script.
The year is 1962 and it has been six years since Grace (Kidman) married Prince Rainier III (Roth) and retired from acting to assume her role as glamorous figurehead of the European principality of Monaco.
Hitchcock, who directed Grace in Rear Window, Dial M For Murder and To Catch A Thief, arrives in Monaco to persuade her to play the kleptomaniac heroine in Marnie.
“It’s going to be the role of a lifetime, Gracie!” the filmmaker predicts.
Closer to home, president Charles de Gaulle (Andre Penvern) intends to reclaim the principality and demands the citizens of Monaco pay their tax coffers into French pockets.
“You agree to my terms or I will send Monaco back to the Dark Ages,” de Gaulle threatens, stopping short of a throaty pantomime villain guffaw.
Thus Grace must choose between personal dreams and regal responsibilities, with guidance from ex-pat holy man, Father Francis (Frank Langella).
It’s hard to muster sympathy for anyone in Grace Of Monaco - not the self-serving bureaucrats nor the privileged social set, who savour the trappings of wealth, birthright and celebrity.
Kidman attempts to capture Kelly’s vocal patterns but she’s poorly served by the script when it comes to layering her breathy delivery with emotion.
Roth is lacklustre and Langella lends gravitas to an endless supply of hoary sermons (“At some point, every fairytale must end!”)
For its myriad failings, including an infuriating inability to address Kelly’s relationship with her children, which is supposedly the catalyst for her inner turmoil, the film has fleeting pleasures.
Gigi Lepage’s costumes are gorgeous, allowing Kidman to change attire with dizzying frequency, and when juicy dialogue is scant, the supporting cast merrily chew on scenery.
It’s a toss-up between Robert Lindsay’s portrayal of Aristotle Onassis and Ashton-Griffiths’ jowly take on Hitchcock who leaves the deepest teeth marks.
Drama/Romance. Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Paz Vega, Parker Posey, Derek Jacobi, Geraldine Somerville, Robert Lindsay, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Andre Penvern. Director: Olivier Dahan.