IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 103 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Six years after making her last cinema appearance in 1956’s High Society, former Hollywood goddess turned Princess of Monaco receives an offer from Alfred Hitchcock, the director of four of her films, to star in his next project Marnie. However, nobody else in Monaco seems keen for Grace to return to the big screen, while her husband is involved in political manoeuvrings over tax and territory which could result in war between Monaco and France……
The critics really seem to have their knives out for this movie and its star Nicole Kidman, and the paying public doesn’t seem too interested in it, while there’s been reports of spats between director Oliver Dahan, whose biography of Edith Piaf La Vie En Rose was much liked, and producer Harvey Weinstein, who wanted a less dark film than Dahan wanted, over final cut, not to mention writer Arash Amel, who claims his script has been butchered. I was under the impression that the version we now have was a compromise combination of the two final edits, but it seems to me that Harvey Scissorhands, the movie butcher and shameless Oscar lobbyist, has won again, since what we have here is a light, even fluffy affair which, while not at all a comedy, at least of the intentional kind, doesn’t really try to be serious. What could have been an examination of, for example, the lack of freedom somebody in Grace’s situation has, or how the twin fairy tale of moving from screen star to royalty can turn sour, is instead mostly a tame, glossy, melodramatic affair which has been denounced by the Rainier family, largely probably because it invents rather a lot to the point where it becomes almost ludicrous, including turning a major member of the family turned into a Boo Hiss villain. Beginning the film with a prefix saying it’s a fictional drama based on two events doesn’t really excuse all of this. Evidence of hacking about is evident too in a rather muddled movie, such as a foreshadowing of Grace’s car crash which isn’t followed through.
And yet, Grace Of Monaco is strangely entertaining, albeit sometimes more in the manner of a 70’s TV movie than a 50’s cinema picture, though it looks and sounds great throughout with vivid, lush and graceful cinematography by Eric Gautier, often stylish direction from Dahan with especially strong use of extreme close-ups, and rich old-fashioned scoring [albeit mostly from pre-used music]. Kidman, despite what you may have read, has a decent stab at playing Grace, and almost sounds like her at times, even if in the end she doesn’t quite convince. It was interesting to this Hitchcock fan seeing her practice part of one of the major scenes from the Marnie script, a role that eventually went to Tippi Hedren. Kidman and an amusingly miscast Tim Roth don’t really click, and one wonders what Grace ever saw in Ranier as he’s portrayed as a small-minded fool, though the film would have been better off opening with when they first met. What warmth exists in the film is mainly between Grace and her closest aide, played by the always good Frank Langella. In the end though it’s the silly script that is the main problem with Grace Of Monaco, so much so that it dominates everything else, but the film, if not exactly good, really is quite enjoyable and a nice, relaxing watch.