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I first fell in love with Grace Kelly when I saw her in To Catch A Thief (1954). She is as perfect as a movie actress gets. If I could post that frame from the Hitchcock film here, I would. That moment when cinema fell short as a medium to accommodate Grace Kelly’s beauty. The first person who came to my mind when I thought of a biopic on Grace Kelly (or a remake of any film of hers), it was Nicole Kidman. Another actress I imponderably love. It’s an obvious choice and a great one.
There is a scene where we see Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, wearing almost the same wardrobe as Kelly did in To Catch a Thief, driving around the hills of Monaco. Coincidentally, that film was also shot in Monaco where Kelly ultimately spent the rest of her life. Maybe it was my wishful vision but I think I saw it filmed with back projection, just the way Hitchcock filmed them. At some places, I felt the director Olivier Dahan gets it. You can’t get a better actress to play Grace Kelly, it’s an opportunity dipped in gold. I wanted him to get it right. But by the end of the film, it was clear that each opportunity was rusted.
We see Grace Kelly not much as a Hollywood star but as Princess Grace after her marriage to Monaco’s Prince Rainier III. The film moves from Grace wanting to work in Hollywood again to her marital issues to politics with the French. Basically, we see depressed Gracie and sad Gracie and scared Gracie. More like one-dimensional Gracie. Her performance seems more like Nicole Kidman playing Nicole Kidman than Grace Kelly. I expected to see some form of physical characterization or voice modulation but there is little inspiration to be found.
The film further snowballs into the melodramatic territory. The shifts in tone go on till the film feels defunct. You have the perfect casting but when you get the script horribly wrong, there is little a director can do to save it. Especially when a director isn’t the best one around. The only other film of his I’ve seen is La Vie En Rose, which was lauded back in 2007. While I thought Marion Cotillard was brilliant in the film, the film was a complete misfire. It had the same problems Grace of Monaco has. Badly written scenes and shoddy tonal shifts.
The film is more disappointing because when Grace Kelly stopped acting, her void could not be filled. This film does not fill that void either. The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964) were terrific films but you can’t help but wonder what if Grace Kelly was in them (especially the latter since the former is quite a great film either way). Seeing her rehearse Marnie’s controversial scene leaves the wound open but is also one of the film’s most inspired moments.
While I had my share of complaints, I can’t ignore the fact that the film is gorgeously shot. The shots are beautifully lit and Monaco’s elegance has been captured the way it should be. There are some extreme close-ups of her eyes, which seem great in isolation but stick out like a gimmick. The music is also Herrmann-esque. A miscalculation as her life was hardly Hitchcockian.
While Grace of Monaco does have its moments, it also has moments where it is downright awful. I could quote Mr. Hitchcock and one of the dialogues from this film: “It’s only a movie”. I’d rather share another famous quote which would be my main quibble with this film. “To make a great film, you need three things – the script, the script and the script”.
The only time I felt something while watching the film was the final title card before the end credits: