Grace of Monaco (2014)

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Grace of Monaco: Directed by Olivier Dahan. With Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Paz Vega. The story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly’s crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle, and a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s.

“Unlike that dreadful 1980s biopic with Cheryl Ladd, u0026quot;Grace of Monacou0026quot; does not aim to be a complete biography of Grace Kelly. It concentrates on one single episode in her life, the dispute between France and Monaco in the early sixties when President de Gaulle, angered by the number of French citizens who were avoiding taxation by using Monaco as a tax haven, blockaded the tiny Principality and even threatened it with invasion. (Possibly he wanted to win himself a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the victor in the shortest ever war in history). The film also deals with Graceu0026#39;s relationship with her husband Prince Rainier (whom she calls u0026quot;Rayu0026quot;- fluency in the language of her adopted country does not seem to have been her strong point) and the search for a palace mole suspected of selling Monacou0026#39;s secrets to France. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eCritical reviews of the film have generally been negative, and in my view with good reason. For such a talented actress, Nicole Kidman has a surprisingly large number of mediocre or downright bad films in her CV (u0026quot;Far and Awayu0026quot;, u0026quot;Moulin Rougeu0026quot;, u0026quot;Practical Magicu0026quot;, u0026quot;Bewitchedu0026quot;, u0026quot;The Stepford Wivesu0026quot;, u0026quot;Batman and Robinu0026quot; and several others), and u0026quot;Grace of Monacou0026quot; is another to add to the list. Playing a famous actress from the past, especially one who was famed for her beauty, always poses special problems, and although Nicole is herself strikingly attractive she does not bear a great physical resemblance to the woman she is portraying. It doesnu0026#39;t help that she is considerably taller than Princess Grace and also considerably older than the Princess would have been at this period. Her accent also seems wrong- the real Grace Kelly had a very distinctive accent, and some Americans even thought she was British. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eSome actresses in a similar situation- I am thinking in particular of Michelle Williams in u0026quot;My Week with Marilynu0026quot; and Helena Bonham-Carter in u0026quot;Burton and Tayloru0026quot;- have been able to convey the essential personality of their characters, despite a lack of resemblance, but Kidmanu0026#39;s face has become so distinctive and familiar in its own right that it seems to be difficult to accept her as another real-life person. I was always too aware that I was not watching Princess Grace but rather Princess Nicole playing Princess Grace. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eApart from Frank Langella as Graceu0026#39;s domestic chaplain Father Francis Tucker, there are no memorable contributions from the supporting cast, and Tim Roth makes a singularly dull and uncharismatic Rainier. His wife may call him u0026quot;Rayu0026quot;, but a ray of sunshine he ainu0026#39;t. He is supposed to be one of the Crowned Heads of Europe but more closely resembles a harassed provincial businessman desperately trying to fight off a hostile takeover bid from a larger and more successful rival. The unsympathetic portrayal of de Gaulle struck me as yet another American dig at the u0026quot;Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeysu0026quot;, so I was surprised to learn that the film was actually made by a French director, Olivier Dahan. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eOne thing the script seems unsure of is whether the Monaco of the early sixties was a rich country or a poor one. At times it is implied that the Monegasques are so impoverished that they cannot even afford to fund the local hospital properly. At others, however, it is also implied that the Principality is absolutely awash with money, so much so that its government can dispense with a local income tax, and that de Gaulleu0026#39;s aggressive designs on his little neighbour are motivated by the desire to secure all this money for France. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eI often think that a good test of u0026quot;fact-basedu0026quot; (or supposedly fact- based) biopics is how well they would work as pure fiction. There is doubtless somewhere an alternative universe in which Grace Kelly never married Prince Rainier, continued her acting career, won a second Oscar for her role in Alfred Hitchcocku0026#39;s u0026quot;Marnieu0026quot;, and today lives quietly in retirement with her husband James Dean. Let us suppose that in this universe some Hollywood screenwriter comes up with an idea for a film (letu0026#39;s call it u0026quot;Tracey of Ruritaniau0026quot;) about the ruler of a tiny European kingdom who manages to save the day with the assistance of his glamorous American ex-film star wife when his country is threatened with annexation by a powerful neighbour. Such a film might work if made as a comedy along the lines of u0026quot;The Mouse that Roaredu0026quot;, but any attempt to make it into a serious drama would probably result in a dull and predictable soap opera. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eWell, you and I live in the real universe, not this alternative one, so we are unable to see that uproarious comedy u0026quot;Tracey of Ruritaniau0026quot;, and have to make do with u0026quot;Disgrace of Monacou0026quot;. Anyone going to watch the film with the idea that it will give them insights into the life of the real Grace Kelly is likely to be disappointed. All they will end up with is a dull and predictable soap opera which only differs from other soap operas in that its characters are supposedly based on real historical figures. 4/10 u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eSome goofs. In a scene set in 1961 Alfred Hitchcock tells Grace (in a reference to Sean Connery and James Bond) that his leading man in u0026quot;Marnieu0026quot; will be a Scottish actor who has just finished making a spy movie. The first Bond movie, u0026quot;Dr Nou0026quot;, was not made until 1962. It is also implied that De Gaulleu0026#39;s eagerness to take over Monaco is fuelled by the need to fund the war in Algeria. In fact, by 1961 De Gaulle had already decided to grant Algeria independence, something achieved the following year.”


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