You wouldn’t want to be in Nicole Kidman’s shoes right now. Her new film Grace of Monaco – which this morning opened the Cannes Film Festival 2014 – has been handed a critical mauling, labelled everything from a “breathtaking catastrophe” to a “stale wedding cake”.
First to pack a punch is Peter Bradshaw who awards the film one star in The Guardian and certainly doesn’t hold back: “It is a film so awe-inspiringly wooden that it is basically a fire-risk. The cringe-factor is ionospherically high. A fleet of ambulances may have to be stationed outside the Palais to take tuxed audiences to hospital afterwards to have their toes uncurled under general anaesthetic.”
The film – which also stars Tim Roth, Robert Lindsay, Frank Langella and Derek Jacobi – comes just months after Naomi Watts’ critically-panned portrayal of Diana in the biopic of the same name, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by The Telegraph‘s reviewer, Robbie Collin, who notes, “These are thin times for fans of Australian actresses playing European royalty.”
He goes on to describe his fellow critics “curling up, like startled armadillos, into tight little balls of embarrassment,” before the film concluded on “an ominous intertitle, printed in solemn white-on-black. ‘Grace Kelly never acted again,’ it reads. As for this lot, we’ll see.”
Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Dalton makes reference to the reported stand off between [director Oliver] Dahan and US distributor Harvey Weinstein over the film’s final edit: “Now after tasting this stale wedding cake of pomp and privilege, it is hard to disagree with Weinstein’s harsh verdict.”
He continues, “Is it even possible to make a boring film out of this rich, juicy, gossipy material? It would seem so. Indeed, it is almost perversely impressive how Dahan misses almost every target and squanders almost every opportunity. Because Grace of Monaco is a stiff, stagey, thuddingly earnest affair which has generated far more drama off screen than on.”
Empire‘s Damon Wise writes, “It’s an easy watch, lush, stylish, stars Nicole Kidman and is often side-splittingly funny. The trouble is, it’s not actually meant to be a comedy.
“As critic Susan Sontag once noted, the essential element of camp is seriousness, and it is this astonishing lack of self-awareness that makes Dahan’s film so much fun. Not that Grace Of Monaco is po-faced – far from it. But the howler of a script by Arash Amel makes such a bizarre and grandiose case for Grace Kelly’s post-movie life that it’s almost impossible to keep a straight face.”
David Sexton is among many to point out the camera’s proximity to Kidman’s face, especially during a rousing pro-Monaco speech given at a charity ball. “[Her] flawless face is filmed in such extreme close-up during this climax that the camera appears to be attempting full penetration, first through a pearly nostril, then a glistening ear,” he writes in The Evening Standard.
“Kidman has the requisite icy beauty to play Kelly,” writes Jamie Graham in Total Film, “and does what she can with the thin material – though any thoughts of a tilt at a second Oscar for a role that, on paper, seems like an award magnet, are truly evaporated 20 minutes in.
Variety‘s Scott Foundas calls the film, “Handsomely produced but as dramatically inert as star Nicole Kidman’s frigid cheek muscles.”
And he’s not done with the film’s lead actress just yet, noting later on, “If Princess Grace was the great role of Kelly’s career, the same can’t be said for Kidman, who would seem to be perfectly cast as the carefully vetted wife trapped in a loveless A-list marriage. But the actress never appears to fully connect with the character, delivering a series of doleful little-girl-lost poses — and, later, pantomimed iron-jawed determination — while decked out by Dahan and costume designer Gigi Lepage.”
Nevertheless, Kidman has a sole friend in the Independent‘s Geoffrey Macnab who flies in the face of the deluge of criticism, awarding the film four stars and noting, “Kidman excels in a role in which she is called on to project glamour and suffering in equal measure – and is never allowed to be seen in the same outfit twice.
“However, for all the crudity of its plotting, this is a subtle and stylised character study… Dahan understands the power of the close-up. The camera homes in on Kidman as often as possible. Her features, which dominate the screen, are far more expressive than the often trite words she and the other characters utter.”
What’s the betting that much-needed soundbite will be topping every poster, advert and bus by the end of the week?
Grace of Monaco is released in UK cinemas on 6 June.