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No saving grace as Kidman stars in a right royal mess

Dir:

Olivier Dahan

With: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella

Runtime: 103 minutes

IF ever there was a Monty Python character that merited a comeback it would be The Colonel. The role of the military man played by the late Graham Chapman (wonder what he would think of the Pythons' summer resurrection?) was to barge into a sketch and bellow, "Stop that, it's silly." Rarely in the history of film has a picture been so in need of the colonel's attention than Grace of Monaco.

For all the resemblance it bears to reality, Olivier Dahan's movie might as well have been called Gracie Fields of Monaco. While not quite the biggest aspidistra/turkey in the world - the clothes are nice - this is one kitsch and sink drama to wish luck as you wave it goodbye. Unless, that is, you are in the mood for 103 minutes of awfulness, in which case fill your boots. Then again, this Grace does not even have the saving grace of being funny-bad. Guilty of taking itself far too seriously, it is plain old bad.

The rot sets in within minutes as the film announces itself to be "a fictional account inspired by real events". Take that to mean whatever you will.

It is the 1960s. The world is languishing in black and white. A Hollywood star by the name of Grace Kelly falls in love with a prince, marries him, and retires to Monaco where everything is in colour. All are agreed it is a fairytale. Get used to that cliche because over the course of the picture you will be hit over the head with it so often as to constitute actual bodily harm.

Grace (Nicole Kidman) appears contented with her lot, save for the odd wistful glance. Still, she cannot resist seeing her old mucker Alfred Hitchcock when he drops in to the principality. The portliness says Hitch, but the voice is pure Frankie Howerd as he chortles such sterling advice as, "The world needs Grace Kelly back on the big screen now." Titter ye not.

Hitch wants Grace to star in Marnie, the story of a mixed-up blonde, but the princess has no time for such fripperies while her husband's kingdom is in crisis. Enter Tim Roth, in specs and a piece of carpet on his top lip, as Prince Rainier III.

The French are putting the squeeze on Monaco because its tax free status is depriving la belle France of squillionaires and business, and the prince must fight to defend his country from sanctions.

What was a squabble about tax is blown up by Dahan and his writer Arash Amel into something akin to the Cuban missile crisis, with diplomatic cables taking the place of weapons of mass destruction. If this was not ludicrous enough, the screen is over-run by bad lookalikes spouting tin-eared dialogue. Hark at Ari Onassis, as played by Robert Lindsay from My Family (this is not a Frankie Howerd/Hitch mix up, it really is the British star under that bad dye job).

Look over there for Charles de Gaulle, telling Monaco to agree to his terms or else. Oh my, there is someone playing Maria Callas. We know this because the script, like so much else, announces the fact.

Poor Nicole Kidman can only grimace and bear it as she dashes through the picture, assailed by bad lines and desperately unconvincing scenarios. Ditto Frank Langella, who plays a priest and advisor to the princess. The only person who looks like he is having any fun is Derek Jacobi, called in to play a count who coaches the princess in how to be regal. Even Sir Derek, talented as he is, cannot save the film from becoming a couture version of 'Allo 'Allo.

Dahar made his name in the life story business with La Vie en Rose, the tale of Edith Piaf which won two Oscars, one for Marion Cotillard in the lead. But this is his Diana movie, a desperately ill-judged attempt to extract stardust from a life and ending up with sawdust. Ms Kidman should not be Academy Award dress shopping any time soon.

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