Almost universally panned, it struck me that Olivier Dahan’s homage to Grace Kelly could not possibly be as bad as its notices suggested. I don’t think it is quite the pits – the sumptuous art direction and Paz Vega as Maria Callas singing the exquisite O mio babbino caro… lift it above that – but it is never much more than a nauseating hagiography.
To many of us in Australia, the poor-little-rich-girl story will always be a hard one to peddle (notwithstanding the patrician mindset by which we are currently benighted), so Grace’s problems hardly amounted to a hill of beans for me. Similarly, as a bloke, the stubborn persistence of the princess myth (alive and well with What’s-Her-Name in Denmark) seems an anachronism beyond all comprehension, but Women’s Weekly flourishes as testimony to its appeal.
What is most fascinating about the movie is watching Nicole Kidman playing at being Kelly. It was always going to be a big ask and Kidman, fine actress though she is, falls short in the same way that Michelle Williams did when saddled with the Marilyn Monroe mantle (My Week With Marilyn, 2011) – some icons you can’t mess with, notwithstanding the motza to be made at the box office through the plebs’ voyeurism.
Neither is Kidman anywhere near as beautiful, and she is not served well by Dahan’s obsession with ultra close-ups. The screenplay starts with Grace’s becoming disenchanted in her role as a royal.
A rather ineffective Prince Rainier (Tim Roth does a lot of squinting) has reached an impasse with big-brother France over the issue of taxation – French plutocrats and aristocracy can register their companies in the Principality without paying a centime in tax.
And blow me down, maintaining the status quo is what Grace heroically goes in to bat for! Her closing speech at the Red Cross ball, in which she speaks of the sacrifice she and her fellow knobs must endure to make the world a nice place, is galling beyond words.
Insipid, insensitive and strictly for idolaters.
~ John Campbell