While the tone is all wrong, this fantastical version of a momentous year in the life of Grace Kelly is still entertaining, and not just unintentionally. Lavishly designed and heavily fictionalised, the film is anchored by a solid movie-star performance from Nicole Kidman that may miss Kelly's persona but captures an intriguing inner life.
It's set in 1961, five years after Grace (Kidman) left her Oscar-winning career to marry Monaco's Prince Rainier (Tim Roth). Now with two kids, she is still struggling to define her role as a foreign-born princess while considering a return to Hollywood. Meanwhile, France is ominously threatening Monaco with embargoes and more if Rainier doesn't start taxing his population and paying the money to France. Taking advice from her priest friend Tucker (Frank Langella), Grace decides to devote herself to her husband to help solve the crisis. This will require training with an etiquette guru (Derek Jacobi) as well as fending off the in-laws (Geraldine Somerville and Nicholas Farrell). And it may mean that she'll never return to the movies.
The script by producer Arash Amel presents each of Grace's decisions in the most simplistic melodramatic light, as director Olivier Dahan cuts to yet another extreme close-up of Kidman's weeping eyes. The corny approach undermines any chance at real drama, as the filmmakers keep trying to crank up suspense (someone is leaking secrets!) or emotion (the people need a champion!) without building up any meaningful substance. This makes most of the plotting feel rather laughably silly, centred around a painfully dull series of political negotiations.
The performances are fairly ridiculous as well. Kidman gives it everything she's got, which is a lot, and adds layers of intelligence, sexuality and curiosity, although the whispery Marilyn Monroe voice is all wrong. By contrast, Roth looks like he'd rather be somewhere else, while Jacobi camps up merrily and Posey (as Grace's shifty aide) scowls ominously. And through it all, director Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose) utterly fails to make any of it believable. It's like a childish version of the story as imagined by someone who did only the minimal research and thinks of Grace Kelly as a saint who saved both orphans and Europe's oldest monarchy. So it feels far less believable than most fairy tales.
Run time: 103 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 14th May 2014
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Production compaines: Gaumont, TF1 Films Productions, Lucky Red, Canal+, uFilm, Silver Reel, stone angels., yrf entertainment, Umedia, Od Shots
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 9%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 48
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Olivier Dahan
Producer: Arash Amel, Uday Chopra, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
Screenwriter: Arash Amel
Starring: Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, Milo Ventimiglia as Rupert Allan, Paz Vega as Maria Callas, Tim Roth as Prince Rainier III, Parker Posey as Madge Tivey-Faucon, Frank Langella as Father Francis Tucker, Derek Jacobi as Count Fernando D'Aillieres, Geraldine Somerville as Princess Antoinette, Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Alfred Hitchcock, Nicholas Farrell as Jean-Charles Rey, Robert Lindsay as Aristotle Onassis, Olivier Rabourdin as Emile Pelletier, Pascaline Crêvecoeur as Grace Kelly's dresser, Jeanne Balibar as Countess Baciocchi, André Penvern as Charles de Gaulle, Flora Nicholson as Phyllis Blum
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