The Cannes Film Festival opens tonight with the Nicole Kidman-starring Grace Kelly biopic Grace of Monaco. Once considered a possible Oscar contender, the film has faced swift and savage reaction from critics.
The reviews are in line with months of bad press and rumors that producer Harvey Weinstein was battling with director Olivier Dahan over the length of the film. Weinstein was reportedly considering dropping his distribution rights altogether, but today struck a new deal with producers where he'll pay less for the film, which Dahan still has final cut over, unless it's a box office success.
But even with Kidman's star-power and the arresting subject material (the film follows Kelly in 1962 as she tries to balance the political and personal roles she played as Princess of Monaco), it seems likely that Grace of Monaco will sink without a trace when it's released (likely this fall). The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, noting that Cannes opening films are usually spectacular, said Grace followed that pattern, just somewhat unusually.
"It is a film so awe-inspiringly wooden that it is basically a fire-risk," he snarked. Kidman looks like a "grown-up Bambi after a couple of cocktails, suddenly remembering his mother's violent death in the forest," Bradshaw added, calling the central plot of the film (a dispute between Prince Rainier and Charles de Gaulle over Monaco's sovereignty), "fantastically boring."
The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Dalton slammed it as "stiff" and "stagey," while allowing that Kidman is "a good physical match for Kelly." Guy Lodge of HitFix dubbed it "hilariously ham-handed" and said that while Kidman has the "porcelain goddess credentials" of Kelly, she's "nervily intuitive" in the role where Kelly was always "malleably obliging."
Kidman's performance is largely being slammed as highly mannered and lacking in depth, but she's also coming under fire for her looks themselves. Kidman's increasingly smooth features and alleged propensity for Botox have long been tabloid fodder, but Scott Foundas of Variety called the film as "dramatically inert as star Nicole Kidman's frigid cheek muscles"
Still, it's largely not Kidman who's taking the blame for this disaster, but Dahan, whose 2007 Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose won Marion Cotillard an Oscar. Dalton said the director "misses almost every target and squanders almost every opportunity" by making the film "stiff, stagey and thuddlingly earnest," and Lodge notes that Dahan apparently "knows not the meaning of 'too close' nor 'edge of the frame,'" basically pushing the camera inches from Kidman's head over and over again.