This story of the beautiful Oscar Winning movie star who swapped being Hollywood royalty for her own real life Prince Charming who swept her off her feet, starts almost at the beginning. It’s the final day on the Set of ‘High Society’ the last movie that Grace Kelly will ever make, and the very next day she and her entire family set sail across the ocean. There she will have the fairytale wedding that every little girl dreams about after which she will naturally live happily ever after.
We then fast forward a few years and the new Princess’s two children are already school age but the magic of living in her own palace is wearing thin, especially as she rarely sees the Prince who is always so busy with affairs of state. She is tempted then when the director Alfred Hitchcock turns up one day clutching a new script of his next movie with a role of a lifetime for her and a paycheck of $1 million.
However the offer has come at a most inappropriate time as the Monaco Treasury is broke and the country is in the middle of a big row with France. It is essentially about money, but in reality it is also more about which leader can shout loudest: De Gaulle or Rainier. The spat is littered with threats and scaremongering and as it escalates the two neighbors edge closer to the real possibility of war.
The French media, fed by their Government, are stressing that Grace is the real problem for both Rainier and Monaco which causes more friction between the Prince and his Princess. Listening to the wise old priest that she runs to every time she is upset (she’s there quite a lot…) and taking his advice, Grace launches an all-out charm offensive to not only turn herself into the most perfect Consort the Principality has ever seen, but also to turn the tide of media coverage to her favor.
Her idea of stopping the impending hostilities is to throw a Grand Ball and invite tout society and world leaders, including De Gaulle, to attend. Naturally they all show up and the Princess all glowing in her white ballgown, and bedecked with the crown jewels, addresses the guests with a simpering speech about how love conquers all. There is naturally not a dry eye in the house during the standing ovation. Amongst the crowd is Robert McNamara the US Secretary of Defense who turns to the President of France and literally says ‘Well, you won’t be dropping any bombs on Grace now will you Charlie?’
De Gaulle is speechless, as we are too, although having sat through almost 90 minutes of this drama that is funny in all the wrong places, we are now quite used to howlers like this. Despite an ‘A’ list cast led by Nicole Kidman playing Grace who is playing Nicole Kidman, and being directed by the respected award-winning Olivier Dahan, this is one of the worst biopics I have sat through in ages. How Miss Kidman kept a straight face saying lines like ‘Colonialism is SO last century’ I will never know. Or hearing Frank Langella as the Priest churn out ‘You have come to Monaco to play the greatest role of your career.’
And Rainier (played by Tim Roth) didn’t look that amused when his wife trying to cheer him up when she blurted out ‘who wants this old throne anyway?’ Well evidently he and the Grimaldi family who had been hanging on to it for centuries. If only they had turned up the heart-tugging overly-dramatic soundtrack just a tad more, they could simply have drowned all of this out.
Billed as a fictional account of real events, the movie strived so hard to be light and frothy that even in the deeper moments an immaculately coiffured Grace still radiates like she didn’t have a skin care in the world. Pretty to look at, this travelogue for the Monaco Tourist Board however was very careful not to include many of the poor people that Grace kept pleading she cared so much for.
There were some odd casting decisions too with Parker Posey really misplaced as an officious straight-laced Aide, and an unrecognizable Robert Lindsay who seemed so uncomfortable trying to play the arrogant shipping magnate Onassis. Sir Derek Jacobi couldn’t have been more outrageous as the Chief of Protocol, and he made me think if only the whole movie had been as odd as he, it could well have turned into a fun piece of camp.
The present Grimaldi family have objected to this movie in very strong language ostensibly because they vehemently hate the way that they have been portrayed, but probably also because they loathe bad Lifetime TV biopics too. Harvey Weinstein the American distributor has disowned the movie too now that it hasn’t a chance in hell of getting a single one of those Oscars he loves to collect. If he does relent and actually releases the movie in the US, he’ll be lucky to get his costs back.
The last word goes to Peter Bradshaw, Film Critic of the UK’s The Guardian Newspaper who wrote that a new level of mediocrity in biopics had been established with the recent appalling ‘Diana’ about the Princess of Wales. Now there is a new critique term he has coined which is ‘it’s worse than Diana’ and Grace is the first one to achieve that and set the bar for mediocrity even lower.