Grace of Monaco: Her Serene Highness Nicole Kidman
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2014: Olivier Dahan puts the Australian actress on a pedestal in a highly romanticised biopic teetering between fable and melodrama, which has opened the Cannes Festival
After Edith Piaf, with La Vie en Rose [+see also:
film profile], which made him world-famous in the wake of Marion Cotillard’s Oscar, French director Olivier Dahan has now latched onto another ultra-famous female face, also from the world of showbusiness: the American star Grace Kelly, who became Princess of Monaco in 1956. And to play this larger-than-life character, who in 1962 finds herself at the crossroads between being tempted to make a Hollywood comeback in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie and the need to fully take on her role as monarch in a Monaco that is suffering particularly badly at a time of politico-economical turmoil, the filmmaker called in the superstar aura of Nicole Kidman. So in Grace of Monaco [+see also:
film profile], unveiled today in the Out-of-Competition opening of the 67th Cannes Festival, the Australian actress finds a milieu tailor-made for her. In practically all the shots, and glorified through a mixture (with extremely melodramatic intentions) of media icon and of the Madonna sacrificing her individuality for the sake of her family, Nicole Kidman finds in Tim Roth a very sturdy alter ego in his role of Prince Rainier, but their performances do not manage to derail the feature from its inevitable path of a highly romanticised biopic, which is clearly intended for a general public that loves to follow the details of royal families’ lives and sets the tone early on with a quote by the heroine: "The idea of my life as a fairy tale is itself a fairy tale."
Simultaneously recounting the personal crisis that Grace of Monaco went through (problems in her marriage, unpopular among the Monegasques, restricted by Palace etiquette, which inhibits her spontaneous nature, and missing her career as a Hollywood actress) and that of a principality in serious financial difficulty and threatened with an economic blockade by France (which was exasperated by the fleeing of its companies to this small, tax-free state), the film builds up these two conflicts to the point where the princess will have to take responsibility for her own fate – and that of the country. This turning point is seen as the greatest role of her life...
The very attractive cinematography by DoP Eric Gautier is indisputably one of the strong points of a feature film that plays the stardom card throughout at the expense of a plot that is rather interesting (without jumping to any conclusions about its historical accuracy), but whose patchy twists and turns are strung together like the pearls on an unimaginative necklace in the middle of a shower of famous faces (Onassis, La Callas, De Gaulle and so on) and the incessant flashes of the journalists, as is the case at the start of the grand ball that brings the film to a close. It is a ball where the princess really shines, in imitation of a film that is totally monopolised by Nicole Kidman.
(Translated from French)