Grace Of Monaco
Director: Olivier Dahan
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, André Penvern
103 mins; Class PG; KRS

Following the downpour of derision that greeted Grace of Monaco when it opened the Cannes Film Festival last month, I wondered whether the film’s star, Nicole Kidman, phoned her good friend, fellow Australian Naomi Watts, for commiseration – Watts, of course, having played another beloved royal princess a few months ago in Diana to similar critical scorn.

Both films try and fail to capture the true essence of the women they portray – attempting to highlight aspects of their personalities and lives never seen by the public, while at the same time elevating them to an artificial demi-god status and never really getting to portray them in any depth.

Grace of Monaco’s plot is two-fold. In 1962, six years after the fairy tale wedding that saw American Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly (Kidman) marry Prince Rainier of Monaco (Tim Roth), the marriage is facing some problems.

None of it rings true, despite the attempts to portray the intricacies Grace faced during a momentous year of her marriage

The prince is concerned with political affairs as the principality is threatened with annexation by France; while Grace’s friend and mentor Alfred Hitchcock tries to tempt her back to her career in Hollywood to play the role of Marnie in his next film, forcing her to choose once and for all between her royal duties and the life she once had.

The more interesting aspect of the film is that of the princess contemplating a return to Hollywood, egged on by Hitchcock (Roger Ashton-Griffiths, portraying the director as an influential and fond friend), as she debates the pros and cons of such a move. Yet, despite some initial tabloid frenzy, this is dealt with as a minor issue as it soon gives way to the supposed political aspects of her life. And herein lies the film’s biggest failing.

Grace of Monaco attempts to present the princess as an important player in the France-Monaco spat.None of the scenarios rings true, despite the attempts to portray the intricacies Grace faced during a momentous year of her marriage. These are spiced up by appearances of other famous people – most notably Aristotle Onassis (Robert Lindsay) and Maria Callas (Paz Vega).

There is little that is deep in the scenes that feature her with Rainier. Roth is solid, if a little workman-like, in his role as Prince Rainier. And surprisingly, the three children rarely feature, used as props more than anything else.

Kidman deserves better than what she is handed in this movie. Physically she is very regal, and the actress seamlessly takes on many of Princess Grace’s traits aided by the outstanding hair, make-up and costume choices. There are fleeting moments in Kidman’s performance when we are reminded that she is, after all, a great actress. But the insubstantial script offers her little opportunity to dig below the surface of the woman she is portraying.

Frank Langella shares some lovely chemistry with Kidman in the role of Fr Francis Tucker, Grace’s friend and confidante.

Had this been a fictional account of a princess making her mark in a fantasy land, it may have passed muster as a good piece of sophisticated escapism. As it is, it is difficult to take seriously. Like many ill-fated biopics before it, it leaves us none the wiser as to what this woman, who must have been as complex as she was fascinating, tick.

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