GRACE OF MONACO (PG)
103 minutes / Opens tomorrow / **
The story: Hollywood actress Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) appears to lead a fairy-tale life when she marries Monaco's Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth) and becomes Princess Grace. But beneath all the glamour, she never feels quite at home as an opinionated American in the conservative royal court, which subsequently frustrates her husband.
It says something about the movie when the real-life controversies surrounding the work are so much more exciting than anything that happens on screen.
Months before it opened the Cannes Film Festival last week, the royal family of Monaco slammed the work as pure fiction and decried it a "farce", even cancelling their usual visit to the festival in protest.
The director of the film, Oliver Dahan of La Vie En Rose (2007) fame, has also been caught in a public war of words with influential film distributor Harvey Weinstein, as Weinstein refused to release it in the United States unless it was re-edited.
Reportedly, the two have since agreed to release the original version, but not before Dahan first calling Weinstein's suggestions for edit "a pile of s***".
It is curious what any edits would have done to improve the film, however, given that the product as it is now is so dull and dreary that a complete re-write and re-shoot would have been more appropriate.
It never delves deep enough into either the main story of Princess Grace in an unhappy marriage or the political subplot where her husband Prince Rainier is threatened by French President Charles De Gaulle.
He is given a choice by De Gaulle: start taxing Monaco's citizens and give a cut of the money to France or face imminent war.
All of it is treated in such a silly, superficial manner that these issues never come across as real problems.
The film-maker hints that Grace felt neglected as an outsider in a foreign land, but the viewer does not get a sense of any claustrophobia or overwhelming loneliness to justify the unintentionally comic scenes of her running off and crying to herself.
In fact, one never really understands how Grace felt about anything, be it her family, her adopted country or the supposed political intrigue going on around her.
She often makes grandiose but empty remarks, which makes it very difficult for the audience to sympathise with her.
Worse, Australian actress Kidman is completely miscast in the titular role.
Other than simply being too famous for the role (all you see is Kidman as herself), she is much too icy and wooden to convey the warm beauty of Grace Kelly.
All of the costumes and jewellery that she dons are certainly beautiful, but put them on her and it just looks like a stiff store mannequin modelling some pretty things.
This article was published on May 21 in The Straits Times.
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