Grace of Monaco Film Review

Film Review by Li-Ming Hu
Grace of Monaco

The Premise
Set in 1962, six years after her celebrated Wedding of the Century, Grace of Monaco tells of a year in the life of one of the twentieth century's most iconic women - Grace Kelly - as she strived to reconcile her past and her present, a yearning for a return to the big screen with her newfound role as a mother of two, monarch of a European principality and wife to Prince Ranier III. While contemplating overtures from Alfred Hitchcock to return to her career in Hollywood, Grace found herself plunged into a personal crisis when Rainier's modernisation of an ailing Monaco was halted by French President Charles de Gaulle - who tried to reclaim the principality for France by force. It was a crossroads for Grace's family, her marriage and her country, and her private life. It would become the moment in which a cinematic icon, an American far from home, would have to face a tough decision - return to her celebrated status as a movie star, globally loved and adored, or accept that she will never act again, embrace her new role and her new identity.

The Review
As the opening credits roll, Grace of Monaco proclaims itself as a ‘fictionalised account of real life events.’ While I don’t have a problem with a film that sacrifices historical accuracy at the expense of compelling story telling, this film falls short on both. And it’s hardly all Nicole Kidman’s fault.

With a script and direction that seems bent on portraying Kelly as some kind of saint, Kidman brings a colour and vulnerability to the role that goes beyond elegant impersonation. Which brings us to one of the challenges in making a film replete with icons from the recent past: Alfred Hitchcock, Maria Callas, Aristotle Onassis, Charles De Gaulle. You can't help but feel you've walked into Madame Tussaud’s and are watching the waxworks come to life. If you’ve ever wished you were a fly on the wall during a party on Aristotle Onassis’ yacht (complete with quip about whale foreskin barstools), or wondered what Callas and Kelly would talk about if while horse riding, it’s rendered here is glorious technicolour, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't entertaining.

It's when things get serious when the film begins to unravel, particularly when politics and the gnarly world of international relations rears its ugly head. France, who are earmarked from the start as Bad Men with threatening manners and strong French accents (I mean, if we’re going to do the accent things shouldn’t Ranier and his Monacian coterie be speaking with French accents too?)  are threatening to invade unless Monaco starts taxing its citizens and forwarding the proceeds to them. Can Grace, with her killer connections and finely honed PR skills, turn things around? I mean really.

Not that I’m in any way saying that women cannot exercise political influence away from those hallowed halls where chain smoking, conference calling men (and it was and continues to be largely men) who make the Big Decisions. The storyline about Grace’s campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people of Monaco is one of the film’s strongest. But hinging De Gaulle’s decision making to whether Grace will star in Hitchcock’s Marnie, or how she pulls off the annual Red Cross Ball, is putting too much strain on an audience’s suspension of disbelief.

Performances are generally strong. Tim Roth gives Prince Ranier a phwoar factor the original possibly never possessed, and Frank Langhella, the man who made Nixon seem sympathetic, does his best with the “Love is obligation” platitudes he is given to spout as the film’s Moral Compass, Father Tucker. Parker Posey is wasted as lady in waiting Marge, who spends the majority of the film clumping around looking grumpy, while Paz Vega makes a sympathetic Maria Callas.

The Verdict
An entertaining and visually accomplished romp through 60's Monaco, think an up-scale Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, marred by a limp script and lack of subtlety that become annoying.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 29th May 2014
Rating: PG - Contains violence, coarse language & sexual references
Duration: 103 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Parker Posey, Milo Ventimiglia, Derek Jacobi, Paz Vega, André Penvern
Director: Olivier Dahan (My Own Love Song, La Vie en Rose)

The Extras
In a scheduling coincidence, production started during the 30th anniversary of the death of Princess Grace.

The script was listed in the 2011 Hollywood Black List of the most liked unproduced screenplays of the year.

The film was intended to be released during the fall of 2013 however it was delayed due to arguments between director Olivier Dahan and distributor Harvey Weinstein over the final cut.

Nicole Kidman has stated that the movie is not a documentary, nor a biopic. Instead, it is the research of Grace Kelly's vulnerability and humanity.
This film was selected as the opening film at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the French dubbed version of the film, Julie Gayet, the mistress of French president François Hollande, assumed Nicole Kidman's lead role.