What's the proper way to say this? Grace of Monaco is little… clumsy. No, don't worry, I'm not talking about Nicole Kidman herself. You coached her well in her portrayal of the regal Grace Kelly; she glides from scene-to-scene with poise and, um, grace. And yet it's a tight performance--the sort of tight performance that's inevitable with a surgically-frozen face like Kidman's (sorry, I'm _not _beyond impropriety, unlike Old Lady Grantham.) What I mean to point out is that the film, as a whole, is unbalanced. It leans, at first, on the elegance of its picture-perfect art direction then descends into a strange and self-aware melodrama. Safe to say it's a classic fall from…
(Sorry, too many puns in a review is bad form. I should know better.)
Let me begin again with a compliment. Kidman is a worthy actor to play Grace Kelly, the Oscar-winning movie star who married Prince Reiner III of Monaco (played here by Tim Roth). True, Kelly was about 20 years younger than Kidman during the era covered by the film, but the casting felt physically and emotionally appropriate. The recreation of late 1950s Hollywood and bourgeois Europe is top-rate, too. We even get some fun portrayals of period icons Charles De Gaule, Aristotle Onassis, and Alfred Hitchcock--thus marking the third time in the last couple years Hitchcock has made a beyond-the-grave cameo in a contemporary film. This time it's during the casting of Marnie, a film that Kelly hoped would be the definitive role of her career. But of course, as we know, that role would instead be to play a princess. All day, every day.
After some struggle with rigid royal expectations, she embraces the challenge like an actress preparing for a part. This is where we get some of the film's fun moments, as people of your ilk - etiquette experts and propriety coaches - train her how to interact with commoners and practice formal protocols. Once equipped, she hopes to kill the macho leaders of Europe with kindness and prevent a war with France. Or at least that's what the script's dramatic interpretation of real-life events would have you believe. In reality, the film only sets up these stakes because that's what a good film is supposed to do - the actual execution is not quite so exceptional.
But a little pomp and circumstance can go a long way. Director Olivier Dahan is more interested in escapism and paying tribute to the films of a bygone era (both in form and content) than he is about keeping pace with today's dark and serious filmmaking. _Grace of Monaco _may not be a picture of perfect narrative decorum, but at least it's too slight to be offensive.