Grace of Monaco has had a fairly tumultuous path to cinema screens.
Public spats, delays and a critical savaging at the hands of reviewers has rendered it almost dead on arrival.
While we don't think Grace of Monaco is as bad as early reviews have made it out to be, it could, and really ought to have been, much better.
Grace of Monaco tells the story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) and her marriage to Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth) in the midst of an ongoing argument with France over the sovereignty of Monaco, a dispute that threatens not only their marriage but the existence of Monaco as an independent state.
It’s the kind of juicy, high stakes story that Hollywood loves to tell, but this is a film with far too much on its mind, dashing from one moment to the next in a manner that could cause whiplash.
It’s a film with betrayal, secret plots, marital troubles and political maneuvering at its core, aspects of the story that serve to suffocate the narrative when it needs room to breathe.
As a result the script covers too much ground and the film feels muddled. Is it about Kelly’s struggles to be a Princess, a mother as well as having the acceptance of the Monacan public who aren’t convinced of her?
Or is it about the struggle to keep Monaco independent despite the pressure from French President Charles de Gaulle (André Penvern)? Or is it all of the above?
In any case it’s too much material to handle and the film does little with it, buckling under the strain of having so many threads to deal with.
It’s not helped by the simplistic depiction of Grace Kelly’s struggles for acceptance. Her revival as the kind of princess Monaco needs is conveyed with the subtlety of a sports film montage.
She learns French, the history of Monaco, how to walk, move, dance and becomes ‘one of the people’ with public acts of compassion in what's supposed to be several months but feels like a few days.
It feels embarrassingly easy, glossed over in a shallow, superficial manner and Kelly’s emotional arc (which ends with a predictable grandstanding speech) never feels as if it has been earned.
The musical score is overbearing too, present in every scene and determined to underscore any emotion in a scene.
Still, there were bits that we clinged too. Kidman is ok as Kelly, even if the script leaves her stranded at times. She manages to show some fragments of Kelly’s fragile state of mind during the period.
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Frank Langella as Father Francis Tucker provides some able support even though his relationship as Kelly's mentor suffers from a lack of depth.
André Penvern and Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Charles de Gaulle and Alfred Hitchcock are game for a few laughs, but those (intentional) moments of comedy are few and far between.
It’s a handsome looking film too, recreating the look of 1950s Monaco save for some annoying over-exposure of sunlight that give some scenes a bright, distracting glow.
Grace of Monaco is neither a good film nor the absolute clunker reviews have labelled it. It's watchable but completely forgettable fluff.
The conceit of the film is intriguing, looking at Monaco through the prism of the Algerian conflict, but it doesn’t go deep enough into its characters or the issues.
In the end Monaco is a muddled, disappointing effort that we expected more from considering the talent involved.