By Mónica Delgado
First day at Cannes and all seems in order. All press gathered in expectation for the new film of Olivier Dahan. As it happened before for La Vie en Rose, the biopic of Edith Piaf, the filmmaker takes passages of the life of famous characters with an evident preoccupation of seasoning them with some vague detail of the official biography. However, booing and scarce applause left in evidence the discontent of this opening screening, prepared more for the opening night’s glamour than for a sense of cinephile passion.
Grace of Monaco. Let’s pretend that Nicole Kidman, scarcely thin, is Grace Kelly, and let’s also pretend that we’re still in times in which Hitchcock planned Marnie, that character full of manias and mental deliriousness that he envisioned alive from the face and frailty of a blonde woman with singular beauty. It’s clear than for the French filmmaker Dahan, this sublimation of the relationship Hitchcock – Kelly becomes necessary, after the actress left it all to be princess of Monaco, and it’s precisely this renounce and new settling that is explored by the filmmaker, from the mere presence of Kidman and the intimate spaces of a luxury castle. However, this desire of being a real princess, which Dahan depicts with close shots and a mise en scene that opens and closes with scenes of the shooting of To Catch a Thief (and so proposing a premise of dreams, or in any case of fiction in that fairy tale life) gets lost from the beginning, converting this desire into an inanimate resource which is spiked with historical twists that carry the film into the realms of involuntary humour (like the apparition of Charles de Gaulle or the plot surrounding the government of Monaco)
There’s a major weight in taking the task of making a film about a character like Grace Kelly, especially since it’s a character which physiognomy is almost a synonym for half of Hollywood cinema, of Hitchcock’s cinema and a kind of performance centered in the mere presence of the actors and actresses from their real fame and glamour (one can even say that they almost didn’t acted, since their physical being allows this characters to be portrayed from looks, gestures, fashions, like Cary Grant, James Stewart or Kelly herself). But Kidman, despite the story, achieves to be faithful to Kelly’s style that Dahan wants for his film. With very close shots of her face, she works a plethora of gestures, which even manages to blur that dissonance with the little Tim Roth, who embodies gracefully prince Rainero.
Grace of Monaco is a very uneven film, since all the efforts to achieve a biopic that reveres the memory of this iconic actress turn into a form of profanation, not to the memory, or to the authorized biography of this princess, since it’s not its intention, but because the mise en scene tries too hard in those blue pastels which try to copy what’s behind dreams, in somewhat laughable dialogues from time to time and the fact that it transforms the life of a woman who search to be her own Pygmalion in the social world of a new country , in a discourse of “chocolate for the soul” of good intentions on Channel scented diplomacy.