Reviews: Grace of Monaco

The poorly received Grace of Monaco has been turned into a Lifetime movie. It doesn't get much worse than that.

"Let's all stand around and
look at the train wreck of a movie."
How do you take a true story as rich as the life of Grace Kelly, populate it with some of the finest actors in Hollywood, lavish it with all the lush period décor of the film’s setting and end up with one of the most ridiculous, farcical contrivances of the year? 

For all the talent behind and in front of the camera, not since Lawrence Kasdan’s Dreamcatcher has a film with such promise behind it gone awry in such a startlingly wacky fashion.  From the director of the award-winning La Vie En Rose, Olivier Dahan has delivered what has been dubbed by many as ‘the worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival’.  Claiming to be a character study of Grace Kelly and not a biopic, Grace of Monaco is a fairy tale of revisionist history so overproduced by its makers and so overplayed by its cast that it seems to exist as a bone dry object full of silly colorforms instead of believable characterizations. 

Set in 1962 France during a tumultuous battle between Monaco’s Prince Rainer III (a dull and tone deaf Tim Roth) and Charles de Gaulle (André Penvern), Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) is torn between resuming film work on Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie and becoming the princess of Monaco.  An odd advocate of tax evasion, the rest is hard wooden padding out of Arash Amel’s dreadful script with some of the most cloying dialogue heard in years, made all the more embarrassing by how hard the actors try to sell it.  

You could make the argument Dahan is going for homage to a bygone era of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, but the melodrama here is so extreme you are immediately whisked from the film the moment its characters begin to speak.  Nicole Kidman, an otherwise terrific actress, is reduced to a bug eyed fish out of water here, as Dahan’s camera presses uncomfortably against her face for no apparent reason, a tactic he seems to relish in over and over again.  You could take any scene from the film, out of context, and shrivel up with embarrassment at the sight of great actors falling flat on their asses.  Really, on a scale of one to ten, everyone in this film has the volume turned up to level eleven. 

"Hello, We're bored."
The whole thing has the appearance of an Oscar bait picture but the voice and intellect of a dilettante. Rejected almost immediately by Kelly’s estate as pure fiction, Dahan’s defense read something like ‘I’m not a journalist or historian. I am an artist’.  If facts don’t matter in Dahan’s fantasy land, then why associate it with a real person at all?  Since Dahan doesn’t consider his film to be a biopic, just what the hell is it then?!  Much was made of the public feud between industry mogul Harvey Weinstein and Dahan over final cut, resulting in indefinite distribution hell for U.S. audiences before ultimately being dumped on the cable television network Lifetime and shortened even further.  

That it exists in an era where films like Jupiter Ascending or even Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas manage to obtain theatrical distribution over something with presumably an A-list cast and director behind it only makes the miserable failure of Grace of Monaco all the more humiliating for its creators. 

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-Andrew Kotwicki