October 1, 2020

Cannes Film Festival opens with Grace of Monaco – review #cannes2014

The trouble with watching Grace de Monaco in Cannes is that all the beautiful scenes of the Riviera make you want to leave the cinema and go outside and admire the scenery yourself. Instead of sitting in the dark watching Nicole Kidman pretend to drive a soft-top Porsche around the Moyenne Corniche you want to fire up a cabriolet and drive round some hair-pins yourself.

Olivier Dahan's latest film is not in competition at Cannes, instead it was chosen to open the festival. This Mediterranean part of the world is mostly beautiful anyway – if you don't look at the monstrous apartment blocks – but through Eric Gautier's lens it's been given an extra special Hollywood polish. France is already the most visited country on earth and this film is not going to make the passport queues any shorter. The backdrop is a success.

Unfortunately other parts of the film don't score so highly. Grace of Monaco might be named for the glamorous film-star wife of Prince Rainier, but the filmmakers have decided to devote much of the film to a Monaco-French feud. And, as you might expect, mid-20th century Monegasque politics doesn't lend itself naturally to exciting drama.

The writer Arash Amal has done his best to make the French blockade of Monaco gripping. Unfortunately it mainly involved policemen with barbed wire standing on the road between the principality and La France. And that was the exciting bit. Otherwise it was old men with unusually bad French accents disagreeing with each other in sumptuous rooms. France threatens the little state and nothing really makes us care whether Monaco gets overrun.

Amal has tried to make a Cuban Missile Crisis out of the situation and imbue it with real danger, but it was just a disagreement about tax rates. And unless you're the chancellor tax rates are hard to get excited about.

Tim Roth's Prince Rainier understands the absurdity of his position as ruler of an 'independent' nation that is totally reliant on France. He can't control his country or his wife, and the impotence shows in his languid movements. Nicole Kidman portrays the unhappiness of Grace's gilded life, the difficulties of life as a royal, forced to give up what she loved.

Given there are exciting moments in the myth of Grace Kelly the filmmakers have deliberately chosen the mundane elements to make into a film. They are suggesting that if behind the glamour life for the film-star/princess was not as good as it appeared, what hope do mere cinema-goers have? You might not marry a prince, they tell us, but cheer up, that's not as good as it sounds. We'll have to ask Kate Middleton if that is true.

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