“The idea of my life as a fairytale is itself a fairytale”
The recent biopic Diana is a highwater point in films-that-are-so-bad-they’re-good and when Grace of Monaco was similarly lampooned by the unforgiving Cannes audiences, my hopes were raised for an enjoyable time of it. But sadly, Grace of Monaco fails at even being entertaining in its shitness, it is just seriously, badly, dull. Olivier Dahan’s direction is preposterous (those close-ups) and ill-thought-through (more of those close-ups!) and Arash Amel’s script is lazy in the extreme (it plays fast and loose with historical fact for no appreciable gain) and utterly misguided (it asks us to root for the protection of Monaco as a tax haven, save the poor rich people…).
Set at a time of constitutional crisis for the principality as Charles de Gaulle sought to incorporate it into mainland France, the film asks us to believe that Princess Grace, whilst selflessly turning down a return to the Hollywood career that made her name, was able to solve all these crises by winning the hearts of the people with a few French lessons and breaking the French government’s resolve (and apparently solving the war in Algeria) with some simpering speech-making. Never mind that the most of it has been made up by Amel, it is just frightfully dull in the telling of it. Nicole Kidman looks suitably like the epitome of Old Hollywood glamour but cannot do anything to inject any life here.
And the film mis-steps everywhere too. Asking Robert Lindsay to reprise the role of Aristotle Onassis clearly came from someone who didn’t see him do it on stage, letting Tim Roth get away with a louche incline of the head as his sole acting move as Prince Ranier is astounding, the princess training school montage is embarrassing and scarcely credible (although it does allow Derek Jacobi to be delightfully camp in a rare highlight). That there were battles about the release of this film between Dahan and Harvey Weinstein seems unsurprising, that it made the light of day at all is the biggest surprise of all.