Grace of Monaco May 25, 9 p.m., Lifetime.
In May 2014, Grace of Monaco was the opening-night premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. With star Nicole Kidman, director Olivier Dahan (the man behind the Oscar-winning La Vie en Rose) and American distributor the Weinstein Company, the Grace Kelly biopic was positioned as one of 2014’s top awards contenders. Then the reviews came in. Grace of Monaco was savaged by critics, more than one of whom compared it to a Lifetime movie. Dahan and TWC’s Harvey Weinstein began a protracted feud over the cut of the film. The American release date was pushed out of awards season, and then indefinitely.
Now, a little over a year later, Grace of Monaco is making its American debut, fittingly enough, on Lifetime. Not only is the movie not Dahan’s preferred cut, but it has been edited even further to fit into a two-hour slot with commercials. At 86 minutes, it’s 17 minutes shorter than the cut that was released in other countries, making the already jumbled narrative even more disjointed. Although the production values are far more lavish than a typical Lifetime movie (the movie was shot primarily in Monaco, where Kelly reigned as princess for 26 years after marrying the country’s ruler, Prince Rainier), the storytelling is stilted and lifeless, full of awkward exposition and misguided re-creations of historical figures.
Rather than cover Kelly’s entire life, the movie focuses primarily on a period during the early 1960s when Monaco was in the midst of a trade dispute with France, and Kelly was considering a return to acting to star in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie. Screenwriter Arash Amel envisions a scenario in which Kelly was instrumental in resolving the international incident, although a disclaimer at the beginning announces the movie as a fictional take on real events. It’s not a particularly convincing storyline, nor does it offer much insight into Kelly as a person outside of this limited time period. Kidman’s aloof demeanor has a regal quality, but she fails to capture Kelly’s humanity (Dahan’s reliance on extreme close-ups is poor compensation). The lovely costumes and locations give a sense of the luxury of Kelly’s life, but nothing in the movie manages to get below that glittering surface.