Grace Of Monaco (2014)

Grace of MonacoBack in 1961 Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) was taking her first shaky steps on the road to becoming Princess Grace of Monaco. While her new husband, Prince Rainier (Tim Roth), wages a war of words over taxes with French president Charles Des Gaulles (Andre Penvern), Grace is approached by her old friend, Alfred Hitchcock (Roger Ashton-Griffiths ), who wants her to star in his new picture, Marnie. Torn between returning to Hollywood and her duties as princess, Grace seeks guidance from Father Francis Tucker (Frank Langella), Count Fernando D’Ailieres (Derek Jacobi) and PR guru Rupert Allen (Milo Ventimiglia) in the hope of winning the respect of her subjects and making the most of what might well be the greatest role of her career.

Thanks to The Diana Effect, by which every biopic since Oliver Hirschbiegel’s account of Princess Diana’s final few years appears at least twice as accomplished than it actually is, it was possible to watch Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom and see something almost noble and inteligent. Even with Hirschbiegel in mind, however, Grace Of Monaco still makes for irredeemably grim viewing, and may even come out of the comparison looking worse for it. Whereas Diana was laughable, maddening and cheesy beyond belief, Olivier Dahan’s Grace Of Monaco is blandly beige, stiflingly sincere and almost completely lifeless.

Nevertheless, the similarities are striking, at least to begin with. Both films star celebrated Australian actresses playing much-loved European royalty, yet neither film seems to have that much faith in their abilities; like Diana, Grace Of Monaco opens with a shot of the back of its namesake’s head, a shot which becomes a sequence and ultimately lasts for a string of increasingly strained scenes. Little do you know, but by the time the director has built up the courage to deal with his star head on the most successful part of the film is long over, and from this point on it will only get progressively worse. At least from behind it was possible to imagine that you were watching Grace Kelly.

It would be impossible to comprehensively list Dahan’s film’s failings, but the following examples may give you a distinct flavour. In addition to Kidman, who is decades too old and much too innocuous for the role, Dahan has also miscast Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Lindsay as a French aristocrat and Tim Roth as the film’s romantic lead. This is a movie in which the supposedly real car journeys look as fake as the film-within-a-film ones featured earlier, where Grace Kelly — one of the greatest screen actresses in Hollywood history — is taught to look surprised by Last Tango In Halifax‘s Derek Jacobi, and which spends much of its running time in extreme close-up for no apparent reason, only serving to emphasise the dearth of similarity.

If the film has a loose grip of its heroine (Nicole — never Grace — says family is everything, yet you barely see her children) then it has an even weaker grasp of its historical setting. Grace seems completely unconcerned with the local politics (“Oh, but colonialism is so last century”) but wonders why her subjects treat her with as much apathy. She’s far more concerned with Marnie, the script that has been personally delivered to her by Alfred Hitchcock. Unfortunately, neither is much of a story (Monaco never did go to war, while Tippi Hedren ultimately won the role of Marnie), and the would-be plight of the overprivelaged Monacans and their uninterested Princess struggles to elicit any real sympathy.

At one point towards the end of the film, shortly before Grace single-handedly averts war by delivering muffins to soldiers, throwing a big ball and learning to look sad, she and Prince Rainier talk dismissively of Monaco’s “silly old throne”. It’s quite possibly the worst scene of the year, though in a film that gives it so much competition it’s almost impossible to be sure. When even the characters are questioning the point of it all you can’t help but feel that they’re wasting their own time as well as everyone else’s.

1-Star

 

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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