In an intriguing parallel with her friend Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman’s new royal biopic is the subject of critical derision. Just as Watts took the title role of DIANA in the slammed Oliver Hirschbiegel helmer, Kidman’s GRACE OF MONACO (aka Grace Kelly) raised some unintentional laughs at this morning’s press screening. With a Gala premiere opening Cannes 2014 later on and a solid history of heckling at the Festival the stage is set for a potential journalistic takedown.
The troubled production has been the topic of speculation for some months, with stories of arguments between director Olivier Dahan and producer Harvey Weinstein over the final cut and displeasure from the royal family of Monaco over the way events are depicted. In another development that draws further comparison with DIANA, writers such as Stephen Dalton of The Hollywood Reporter have wondered how such an an innocuous affair was made from fertile source material:
Is it even possible to make a boring film out of this rich, juicy, gossipy material? It would seem so… Indeed, it is almost perversely impressive how Dahan misses almost every target and squanders almost every opportunity.
With a solid supporting cast including Tim Roth, Sir Derek Jacobi and Robert Lindsay, this was surely intended to be potential Oscar material. However Phil de Semlyen of Empire has put the film on a more trivial footing:
“It’s an easy watch, lush, stylish… and is often side-splittingly funny… The trouble is, it’s not actually meant to be a comedy.”
Bearing in mind Empire are not exactly known for their unduly scathing reviews this is low praise indeed. While it’s unfair to knock a production before it’s even released, and bearing in mind that the knives appear to have been out before the first frame was projected, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what might have gone wrong. As with DIANA the weight of expectation has perhaps led to one compromise too many in the dramatic department. And though Grace Kelly’s post-filmic existence may be of interest to gossipers, it would probably have been a lot more interesting to see her doing things like working with Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant. Hitchcock is featured in the story, but in a semi-fictionalized capacity, flying out to Monaco to convince Grace to appear in MARNIE (1964).
Kidman, an indisputably fine actress, will no doubt weather the storm. She is no stranger to misconceived projects, with the shadows of THE STEPFORD WIVES (2004) and THE INVASION (2007) long behind her. And while the word on the Croisette is grim, GRACE OF MONACO, the story of the star of TO CATCH A THIEF, may yet steal some bling at the box office.