Grace of Monaco isn’t a Lifetime Original Movie — it’s quieter and less sensational than the network’s biopics, and doesn’t take too much interest in destroying its subject, Grace Kelly — but it’s certainly a good fit on the network. Prior to its Cannes premiere (and subsequent panning by critics), Grace of Monaco was met with criticism for being an inaccurate portrayal and a “farce,” just like basically every other Lifetime biopic. It also has all the general staples of a Lifetime flick: embarrassing acting, shoddy writing, a general disconnect between scenes, and most of all, utterly boring.
In Grace of Monaco, Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly, the famed actress turned princess of Monaco. Her performance is… acceptable, at best, as she alternates between sleepwalking through the role and going totally overboard in a scene, with nothing in between. The movie loves awkward close-ups of Kidman’s face, framed at odd and disjointed angles, while she cries. The aim, I suppose, is to evoke sympathy from the viewer about Grace’s conflict between moving on from one privileged life (actress) to another privileged life (princess), while internally debating whether she wants to go back to her old privileged life (actress). There’s no doubt that Grace had real problems, and that it’s possible she wasn’t entirely happy with her new life — at one point, she’s told, “Now you’re just a housewife with two bratty kids.” But writer Arash Amel struggles to provide a measured portrayal, instead presenting Grace as unlikeable — until the third act’s ridiculously angelic, fairy-tale ending (the character actually talks about how she believes in fairy tales if you just work hard enough!), which exists to say, “See! Grace is good!”
Before that faux-ethereal scene, there’s significantly more mess to slog through. The movie mostly revolves around Grace’s marriage (once again making a case for its new home on Lifetime, where women in biopics are generally reduced to the men in their lives) and how her husband, Prince Rainier (Tim Roth), is occasionally controlling and quick-tempered. When Grace dares to speak up to a chief treasury agent, the prince gets angry — even though, as she explicitly states, he loves her because she speaks her mind. There is a lot of needless expository dialogue; in case you couldn’t gather as much from the title, there’s actually this verbatim exchange: “You’re in Monaco, Grace.” “I know I’m in Monaco.”
When Grace contemplates going back to Hollywood to star in a Hitchcock movie, she’s quickly shut down because the rumors claim she’s doing so because her marriage is unhappy or failing or something equally frustrating. There are scenes where she fights Rainier, where he yells at her, where he publicly disapproves of her new haircut and then informs Grace that she has to publicly turn down Hitchcock. There’s no drama or suspense here, so the whole thing falls flat, no matter how intense and dramatic the movie (and the actors) try to make it.
The film seems to have two points of focus: the conflict in their marriage, and Grace’s fictional bravery in somehow solving an international incident revolving around taxes or — OK, none of it really matters or is even interesting. It’s so clearly a manipulated version of Grace Kelly’s life, designed to redeem her as a heroine. Sadly, the film’s awful writing and obsession with her marriage are the only reasons why she would need any redeeming in the first place.