By ALAN SWERDLOW
Grace Of Monaco / Directed by Olivier Dahan / PG13
Last week, I advocated public immolation for Roland Emmerich. I’ve spent a good couple of weeks since the preview thinking of a suitable fate for Olivier Dahan, the so-called director of the spectacularly ill-conceived Grace Of Monaco. Since the Monegasque Royal Family has officially excoriated the film, we can’t have him flayed alive in order to send them his rolled skin. Boiling in oil is environmentally suspect and solitary confinement too tame. I know: we’ll tape his eyes open, a la Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, and force him to watch Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, for 48 hours straight, no pee-breaks allowed. That’ll teach him to go inflicting wilful incompetence on a fee-paying public.
Too extreme? Possibly, but Dahan has committed the double enormity of making a film so boring it could stun cattle in an abattoir and making us watch yet another one of those hollow, insufferable performances that Kidman has offered up of late. Why did we ever think she was an accomplished, talented actress?
Her icy beauty and vacant thousand-yard stare might be something of a put-down to the original Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, but then Kelly was one of Hitchcock’s Blondes, all of whom were unbearably lovely, but not the most talented of screen performers. He did brilliant things onscreen, they decorated it. Maybe Kidman isn’t all that inept, then, but her emotional depth makes any one of Madame Tussauds’ waxworks brilliantly animated and vital by comparison. At one point in this film, in an effort to teach her regal deportment in public, flashcards with emotions printed on them are shown to Princess Grace. Kidman’s portrayals of the said emotions almost made me snort popcorn as lethal projectiles from my nose. Then again, it was unforgivable of Dahan to expect his leading lady to do that in the first place.
Hitchcock actually kicks this film off, waddling through the halls of the Palais Princier de Monaco to tempt Princess Grace back to Hollywood with the script of Marnie. Since most people know that it was Tippi Hedren who played the part, there’s no element of suspense to Grace’s decision, which takes up a considerable portion of the film’s running time. It’s as pointless and make-do as everything else that constitutes the narrative, but it does give the viewer plenty of time to compile laundry lists, compute Pi to 60 or so decimal points, have a refreshing nap or snort popcorn as lethal projectiles out your nose.
Mind you, this depiction of the pointless and meaningless lifestyles of the rich and famous should, by rights, inspire revolution, but even the most politically active viewer will be numbed to inaction by Dahan’s lack of any discernible dynamism, interest or concern. Instead we are asked to be outraged that Charles de Gaulle tried to close the tax-haven that Monaco offered France’s delinquent super-rich tax-defaulters. A facsimile of Maria Callas trills O Mio Babbino Caro at one point, but the movie is more than a couple of songs shy of the Rombergian operetta that the setting almost demands and into which the film threatens to lurch.
Kidman wears unbearably lovely costumes, wafts through some unbearably lovely settings, gazes with moist eyes into the unbearably lovely distance, and embraces her inner unbearably lovely unbearable loveliness.
Tim Roth, as Prince Rainier, wears spectacles, a receding hairline, a ‘tache and some silly uniforms as well as an air of stifled frustration. Whenever he actually looks at anything, it seems as if he is searching for the exit.
Derek Jacobi wafts in briefly as an aristocrat dragooned into teaching Grace Kelly how to be a princess. He is not so much to the Royal Purple born as to the Faintly Mauve, but his camp flutterings enliven the tedium all too briefly, and then he is gone. However, Parker Posey, a normally very adroit performer, here playing Grace’s lady-in-waiting or gaoler-in-waiting, has been directed to channel Mrs Danvers and Wednesday Addams simultaneously. It’s a performance that caused me to repeat my popcorn through the nose thing yet again, though it flirts tantalisingly with being one of those portrayals so bad they’re wonderful. Oh, and I think Frank Langella is in there somewhere, high on a hill not as a lonely goat-herd (which would have been satisfying) but as some sort of whisky-priest or advisor.
Does this film teach us anything new about Grace Kelly? Do we learn anything at all of interest concerning the Monegasque royal family? Does Dahan adroitly explicate mid-century political machinations amidst the remaining minor principalities scattered across the south of Europe? Is there a shred of pertinence or concern that contaminates even one frame of this sad waste of expertise and finances? Of course, the answer is no. All that Grace Of Monaco did for me was generate a little worry for our own Seffrican Serene Highness, Princess Charlene, now married to the reigning Prince Albert.
At the film’s conclusion there is an intertitle that states “…she never acted again” to which the only measured response can be “…she never acted to begin with!”