Grace of Monaco, the opening film of the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, has not been praised by the critics and audience alike. The disagreements between Harvey Weinstein and Olivier Dahan as well as the polemic and bad pre-Cannes publicity – that include the film’s disgrace by the Grimaldis – are infinitely more lively than the new slumberously inert and inconcise film of the director of La Vie en Rose.
Certainly, the idea of a film about Grace Kelly may have sounded better on paper than on the big screen. Obviously, the conception of Grace of Monaco as the Cannes Film Festival opener seemed very interesting and fitted in a certain way in the long tradition of the mixing and matching of Hollywood royalty and European aristocracy. It was precisely at this festival that Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier III in 1955. This fancy of an American screen queen with family issues who marries an ultra-rich European prince was indeed very tempting. So, how did the director who triumphed so brilliantly with Édith Piaf’s life, crash now with such a wonderful material and such a great potential?
The answer to this question is not easy but the most evident is that Dahan made a dull, lineal, theatrical and above all insipid film. It seems as though he missed all his opportunities on purpose. Even a stellar cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Paz Vega and Roger Ashton-Griffiths (whose characters are very superficially sketched by screenwriter Arash Amel) could not elevate and carry his latest work. Moreover, he tried to make of Grace a princess à la Diana and omited certain juicy details of the royal couple’s married life: both were chronically unfaithful. While Rainier entertained various mistresses, Grace had had affairs with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. With all this drainage of facts, Dahan managed to succeed in inflating a little political skirmish between France and Monaco that occurred in 1962 into an existential power struggle for the future of the principality with double agents and traitors planning a coup. To this fanciful fabrication, we can add a grotesque discourse in which “love conquers all” in this little magical kingdom that is Monaco, this little tax heaven, this gamblers magnet with shifty oligarchs and money launderers, and “where all is order and beauty, luxury, calm and voluptuousness”. In this fabricated jumble with a somewhat convoluted twist, Dahan also succeeded in including Grace Kelly’s reticent rejection of Hitchcock’s script for Marnie, making it an essential factor in Monaco’s rescue from a French invasion.
What is more interesting and welcome is the presence of emblematic figures such as Maria Callas, Onassis and Alfred Hitchcock as well as a homage to Hollywood and to the master of suspense with references to To Catch a Thief and Rebecca.
This fragmented and melodramatic biopic of Grace Kelly is more a hagiographic TV film than a serious work of revisionist cinema that brings forth new details on Princess Grace’s life and debunks the fairytale myth – let’s not forget that the film starts with quotation by the princess “The idea of my life as a fairytale is itself a fairytale”. It would be logical after all. But Dahan is not sure about what he wants and limits himself to a apotheotic end in which Grace saves the Rock from a diplomatic crisis with the bad de Gaulle. At times very well done and even funny, the film often falls flat but we cannot say that it is the worst opening film of the Cannes Film Festival: The Great Gatsby wins by far this title! A priori, Dahan can be considered as a director who understands women and he showed it very well with La Vie en Rose but he unfortunately failed to grasp Grace. To which other iconic female figure will he dedicate his next film? That is the question.
Production: Stone Angels, YRF Entertainment, Umedia, Lucky Red, TF1 Productions, Canal +, Silver Reel (France, USA, Belgium, Italy 2014). Executive producers: Claudia Bluemhuber, Uday Chopra, Uta Fredebeil, Bill Johnson, Jonathan Reiman and Jim Seibel. Producers: Arash Amel, Uday Chopra and Pierre-Ange Le Pogam. Co-producers: Jeremy Burdek, Nadia Khamlichi, Adrian Politowski and Gilles waterkeyn. Line producers: Didier Hoarau and Stéphane Lhoest. Director: Olivier Dahan. Screenplay: Arash Amel. Photography: Eric Gautier. Production Design: Dan Weil. Costume design: Gigi Lepage. Editing: Olivier Gajan.
Cast: Nicole Kidman (Grace Kelly), Tim Roth (Prince Rainier III), Paz Vega (Maria Callas), Milo Venitmiglia (Ruper Allan), Parker Posey (Madge Tivey-Faucon), Derek Jacobi (Count Fernando D’Aillieres), Frank Langella (Father Francis Tucker), Olivier Rabourdin (Emile Pelletier), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Alfred Hitchcock), Geraldine Somerville (Princess Antoinette), Robert Lindsay (Aristotle Onassis), Nicholas Farrell (Jean-Charles Rey), Jeanne Balibar (Countess Baciocchi), André Penvern (Charles de Gaulle), Phillip Delancy (Robert McNamara), Yves Jacques (M. Delavenne), Flora Nicholson (Phyllis Blum)
Color – 103 min. Premiere: 14-V-2014 (Cannes Film Festival)