There are three parts, though not spelled out, in Grace of Monaco. Part one: Grace Under Pressure. Part two: Grace Rebounding. Part three: Amazing Grace. Looked at cold, this is an extraordinary story. Humble Philadelphia beauty becomes Hollywood star, then accepts proposal to wed Prince and co-rule European country. To this story add another, true if a little souped-up. Grace Kelly was pressured to refuse a screen return in Hitchcock’s Marnie. She compensated with a part in the drama of Monaco’s fight to fend off France, when De Gaulle sought to enforce taxes with a blockade and threatened tanks, though her role may not have been quite as depicted, nor quite as satisfyingly consecutive.
Critics have already filed Olivier (La vie en rose) Dahan’s film under T for Tripe. But it has a certain cornball magnitude. Nicole Kidman grows from svelte vulnerability to steely self-possession. She wears gowns well. She resembles the actress/royal. And she line-feeds Tim Roth’s Prince Rainier. Grace-Kidman (on Marnie): “It’s just a movie.” Rainier-Roth: “And before you met me you were just an actress.” Touché. Later she gets her own back – and gets back as bonus her imperilled popularity.
If you lock up your brain and throw away the key, the film is bearable. Derek Jacobi quavers with campy élan as the “Count d’Aillieres”, teaching Grace courtly protocol. And there is a mirroring subplot featuring Maria Callas. “He wanted me to give up singing! But I’m an artist!” declaims Paz Vega’s Callas of Robert Lindsay’s Onassis. In dramas like this, all the world’s a stage and all the men and women want the starring role.