5 June 2014

Film Review - Grace Of Monaco (2014)

Drama, Biography, Romance
Warner Bros UK
Rating: 12A
Release Date:
6th June 2014 (UK)
Running Time:
103 Minutes
Olivier Dahan
Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, André Penvern, Frank Langella, Derek Jacobi

It was always going to be difficult for any film whose central premise revolves around a woman who was one of the cinema's most iconic stars. If the said woman then married and became one of the most famous princesses in the world - well it would appear that the film would be a non-starter before it even got past the drawing board. Considering this, it is perhaps surprising that Grace of Monaco (2013), the new drama from French director Olivier Dahan starring Noicole Kidman as the eponymous blonde beauty, is as good as it is.

Following Kelly's story during her early years as the new chatelaine of the House of Grimaldi, the film focuses on the effect two major incidents - one personal, one political - had on her life and that of the people of Monaco. Both her desire to return to acting and in particular in a film for Alfred Hitchcock, and a potentially devastating disagreement between her husband Prince Rainier and France's President De Gaulle over the sovereignty and taxation of the tiny principality, makes for an engrossing glimpse into a world of untold privilege though, unfortunately, not happiness.

If anyone obtains a degree of fame for longer than the 'fifteen minutes' legendarily allotted by Andy Warhol, it is inevitable that their image - particularly in today's age of mass media - will be indelibly etched on the public's memory. As a result any biographical drama built around these individuals will frequently come up against multiple obstacles. Their mages are caught forever on celluloid or in print, making the public feel they know them personally through familiarity with their likeness. Sometimes the seemingly impossible task of portraying this person on film is managed with believability as in Helen Mirren's majestic turn as Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006). More often however the result is the opposite, as it was for Naomi Watts in Oliver Hirschbiegel's Diana (2013).

Kidman, in Grace of Monaco, comes somewhere between the two. Undeniably similar in appearance to the icy beauty of the American actress loved by millions of movie fans for her parts in Hitchcock's classics Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955), she nonetheless lacks the air of assured self-confidence Kelly exudes in pictures and archive footage of her once she had married her prince.

Grace of Monaco's other problem, which inevitably plagues many films based on 'true stories', is how much of it can you really believe? True Kelly was eager to return to acting and Hitchcock wanted her for the leading role of Marnie in his 1964 psychological drama of the same name - a part which eventually went to his other flaxen favourite Tippi Hedren. Prince Rainier's differences over taxes with France's President de Gaulle, which reached boiling point in 1962 and that form the film's main story arch, also have their basis in fact. Here however the twos strands are entwined in such a way that they climax in a typically over-sentimentalised Hollywood fashion.

If this film is to be believed Grace Kelly's private life - like that of Princess Diana, with whom she became close friends - was far removed from the fairytale her adoring public thought it to be; in the end one of cinema's most feted actresses simply exchanged the gilded cage of Hollywood for that of a small area on the French Riviera.


Cleaver Patterson

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