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Nicole Kidman Does Grace Kelly in Cannes Opening Film

Grace of Monaco does many interesting things but one thing it won’t do is enable Nicole Kidman to win an Oscar the way Olivier Dehan’s last major film, La Vie En Rose, enabled Marion Cotillard to win for her performance as Edith Piaf. That isn’t going to happen, and neither are many other Oscar nominations, with the possible exception of costume design.  But that doesn’t mean Grace of Monaco is without its rewards. Despite eruptions of inappropriate laughter throughout this morning’s screening, there is still nothing quite like watching an actress as skilled as Nicole Kidman sink her teeth into a role.

Grace of Monaco takes us inside the life of Grace Kelly during the time when she had the chance to do Hitchcock’s Marnie but then decided to put on her big girl pants and help rule Monaco, or rather, help save its sovereignty.  Her relationship with Prince Rainier (Tim Roth) and Father Frances Tucker (Frank Langella) are all that really keep her going in a life she can’t stand.

In 1963, Charles de Gaulle imposed sanctions against Monaco in angry response to its status as a tax-free haven for the wealthiest of French citizens, and the film seems to say that nothing but the presence of Princess Grace helped avert a crisis. Here’s where Grace of Monaco stumbles. Had the focus remained on Grace’s inner struggles between marriage, family and career it might have kept its attention on aspects an audience wanted to see. The uneasy mix of political maneuvering with scenes of royal supremacy makes you wonder how much of either is real or fabricated. Monaco’s status as playground for the rich had existed for nearly a century with no need for the principality to import a Hollywood princess, so any historical impact feels diluted by the presence of her fairytale lifestyle.

That Grace Kelly rose to the occasion to make Monaco and its royalty seem more respectable is an interesting slant, but in this film it’s hard to find the urgency in such a setup — just as it seems a little pointless to pity the poor princess whose two hard choices in life seem to be whether to take a part in a Hitchcock film or be a princess in a fantasy country.  Even her marriage to Rainier doesn’t seem all that bad — he supports her desire to do a movie, he loves her, and all in all what could be so bad about that? She made those choices. She wasn’t forced into them.

Apparently this screenplay by Arash Amel was on the blacklist — a place where supposedly great screenplays wait to be discovered. I can’t help but wonder how scripts are rated to get on that list and if scripts like this exist there then how reliable can it be? In fact, the writing is the worst part of the whole thing, with clumsy lines of dialogue that land with a thud.

The film does get some things right, namely the casting of Kidman. Even though she looks nothing like Grace Kelly, Kidman dug deep to uncover what she believed were Kelly’s strengths and weaknesses.  She also looks fantastic in the beautifully designed costumes.

The director tosses in some clever Hitchcock references throughout, since Kelly’s persona was a familiar trademark of the Hitchcock brand. There is a Mrs. Danvers, an homage to To Catch a Thief, and even a nice little hat-tip to Hitchcock’s editing in Rope.

7 Comments on this Post

  1. Christophe

    “The reason DeGaulle wanted to take over the country was to prevent French citizens from hiding their wealth by not paying taxes there.”

    Ah! The French government: living above its means and making its citizens pay the tab since… forever.

    “Apparently this screenplay by Arash Amel was on the blacklist – a place where supposedly great screenplays wait to be discovered. [...] In fact, the writing is the worst part of the whole thing.”

    The director, Olivier Dahan, rewrote large parts of the script himself, drawing the ire of Harvey Weinstein, who had agreed to distribute the film before he made the controversial changes.

  2. phantom

    ” there is still nothing quite like watching an actress as skilled as Nicole Kidman sink her teeth into a role.”

    The exact reason I will watch this film next week even if I won’t read one good review about it.

    Considering Werner Herzog’s Gertrude Bell biopic (Queen of the Desert) is already in post-production, Kidman still has a good shot at a succesful awards season, though.

  3. Bryce Forestieri

    “Considering Werner Herzog’s…(Queen of the Desert) is already in post-production, Kidman still has a good shot at a succesful awards season, though.”

    Hell of a thing it would be for a Herzog feature to have, for the first time, an Oscar nomination. Regardless, I cannot wait — it’s long overdue for him to helm a female-led picture, and who better with than the best working living actress.

  4. Bryce Forestieri

    “and even a nice little hat-tip to Hitchcock’s editing in Rope.”

    Curious to see when I Redbox it. What is it though? Cam zooms in some flowers or something? No, wait don’t tell me.

  5. I’m sad it gets such bad reviews, but frankly that’s what I expected. Either way I’m going to watch for Kidman.

    On the side – I believe it’s Tim Roth (not Rother) and La Vie En Rose was not Dahan’s last film (he did “My Own Love Song”, but no one saw it).

  6. andres

    Interesting information. Good thoughts.

    Although, I always thought Kidman looked a LOT like Gracy Kelly.

    haha

  7. A lot of the costumes were archive pieces actually worn by Grace Kelly. But the fact that other, uncredited designers contributed to the wardrobe on a film doesn’t have to mean that said costumes.won’t reap an Oscar nomination for its head designer – Antonella Cannarozzi received one for I Am Love despite the fact that Raf Simons and Silvia Venturini Fendi created most of the pieces for that film.

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