By Jess Lomas
June 4, 2014
“The idea of my life as a fairytale is itself a fairytale”, Grace Kelly is quoted as saying as Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco begins, with a side note that what follows is a fictitious reimagining of fact, or, at least, some facts.
Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman), Hollywood starlet with only eleven features to her name, married Prince Rainier III of Monaco (Tim Roth) in 1956, sacrificing her career and country to become a Princess. The film focuses on 1962, the year a dispute erupted between Prince Rainier and French President Charles de Gaulle (Andre Penvern) over Monaco’s tax-free status, which lured French businesses to its shore and lead de Gaulle to demand Monaco tax its citizens and return these funds to France.
Simultaneously, Grace is debating a return to Hollywood to star in Hitchcock’s Marnie; an idea Rainier isn’t sold on. Grace is also struggling with her shifting role in life; her “fairytale” marriage appears mildly emotionally abusive, her children rarely seem a concern to her, and she spends most of her time confiding in Father Francis Tucker (Frank Langella) about her unhappiness and uncertainty.
For a film that should look and feel as luxe as its subjects it surprisingly falls flat, even with the stunning landscapes of Monaco. Dahan appears obsessed with close-ups of Kidman’s face and often bloodshot eyes, contributing to a sense of unease; her wooden features more startling than striking on the big screen. There’s also a hilarious rom-com moment that catches you off-guard as the movie launches into a Princess Diaries-style montage as Grace learns the royalty ropes from Count Fernando D’Aillieres (Derek Jacobi), leading to the defining moment where Grace delivers a speech that miraculously warms the heart of the cold de Gaulle. By this point, all credibility is lost.
When it comes to biopics, one would think it hard to top the bad taste Diana left in mouths, yet Grace of Monaco also achieves top marks for insensitivity to its subject. While Dahan doesn’t look at Grace of Monaco as a biopic, but rather the tale of an artist changing roles, Kelly’s children have described the flick as “needlessly glamorised and historically inaccurate.” The picture anesthetises you into boredom with its inflated sense of purpose, missing an opportunity, whether as a biopic or an artistic drama, to both honour Kelly’s memory and entertain modern audiences.
Grace of Monaco arrives in Australian cinemas June 5, 2014.