So this morning the Cannes opener “Grace of Monaco” screened for critics, to a stunned response (here’s our full review), a few whistles of derision, and a light smattering of ironic applause. How did we know it was ironic, you might ask, since applause is merely the sound of palm striking palm? Well, because it came after “Grace of Monaco,” that’s how. But in many ways, the film has proven the ideal first movie of a major festival–literally almost anything has to be an improvement after it, and perhaps nothing could have bonded an audience full of strangers together more than getting the opportunity to guffaw in unison at the many, many clangers dropped throughout (think of tossing a bag of hammers down the side of a quarry for the level of clanginess we’re talking about). It’ll be a little while before you guys will get to check out this epic fail of a film for yourselves, but in the meantime, there are so many choice moments of unintentional hilarity that we want to share with you, because this shit is just too good to keep a lid on. Here in no particular order, are our top six.
1. Derek Jacobi’s Parrot
In all honesty, Derek Jacobi’s whole performance should really be in here as it’s the gift that keeps on giving, even in the few hours since we’ve seen the film. But as Princess Grace’s etiquette and comportment coach, Count Something de Something, Jacobi really only gets a couple of distinctly “Kings Speech”-style montage scenes in which to make an impression, and seemingly the ormolu teapots and dandified cravats weren’t screaming “frou-frou aristocrat” loudly enough, so he goes with….a parrot, on his shoulder, Long John Silver-style. It’s only a brief moment, but it’s one of the times that we did a double take, as was the highly gif-able, meme-able close-up of his that ended the training montage: Grace Kelly has finally got her act together already and learned how to walk like a real princess instead of slouching about like an Oscar-winning actress and famed beauty, which earns her a single, curt but gracious nod from hard taskmaster The Count. It’s a moment that we feel must mean as much to Grace as all the Oscars and garlands in the world: JACOBI APPROVES.
2. Hitchcock’s Dialogue
Adding his name to the trivia answer about actors who have played Alfred Hitchcock, Roger Ashton-Griffiths plays the portly master of suspense this time out, and is introduced early being visibly taken with a particular tapestry hanging in the palace, while Parker Posey preaches to him about etiquette. Something about Hitch being thus taken with/struck by a tapestry already had us giggling, but it was his dialogue, and the sub-Hopkins vocal impersonation that Ashton-Griffiths delivers it in, that was even funnier. He’s Hitchock, see, so obviously he’ll never manage to get through a single sentence without shoehorning in a reference to one of his films, or some sort of life lesson delivered as an opaque nod to the craft of filmmaking. From the quick cut we have of him back in LA barking at (presumably) his screenwriter peremptorily “No no no! The Birds! Focus on the BIRDS!” to the screamingly contrived sagacity of, “Don’t stand too near to the edge of the frame, Gracie” delivered as nonsensical Life Advice, and voiced over a shot of Kidman, not just standing near the edge of the frame, but actually framed by a window frame too, not one line he speaks sounds like anything a human has ever said out loud. But a personal favorite is probably the tortuously offhand reply he delivers when Grace asks him who her co-star in “Marnie” would be; as near as we can remember he drawls something like, “Oh I don’t know. Cubby Broccoli has just cast some Scotsman in a spy movie, might be him.”
3. When In Doubt, Push In Real Close
Distracting on so many levels, and seemingly designed to eternally remind us that we’re not looking at Grace Kelly but Nicole Kidman, it feels like fully half the film is delivered in vaseline-smeared extreme closeups that wander around Kidman’s face like they’re searching for their car keys. It’s particularly pronounced in one long, long sequence in which Grace is being counselled by Father Tuck (Frank Langella) and the whole time either of them are speaking we’re looking at Kidman’s hairline, or her jawbone, or her eyelashes, or her right nostril or (often) her tear-streaked cheek. It has a woozy, discombobulating effect that ends up paradoxically putting us at even greater distance from Kelly’s presumed inner turmoil as we get hung up on things like the white of her eye (bloodshot) and the quality of her dye job (good) and just how utterly and completely different Nicole Kidman looks in every respect from Grace Kelly.
4. “For richer, for poorer”
Discussing the possibility of divorce with her priest one moment, then swearing eternal devotion to Rainier the next (betraying no clue as to her interior journey from one attitude to the other) Princess Grace’s tumultuous personal life is only half the story of “Grace of Monaco.” The other, much more boring half details the small principality’s efforts to keep crusty ol’ General De Gaulle’s hands off their taxes, which is clearly meant to come across as some sort of noble struggle for self-determination, but basically seems like what it was: a bunch of very rich people worrying about being less rich. The icing on this particular cake has to be when Grace, now suddenly a devoted wifey standing by her man, declares to Rainier passionately that they made their vows “for richer or poorer”—poorer here being a mindbogglingly relative term, a fact consolidated when she adds breathily that they could even (imagine the horror!) buy a farmhouse in Montpelier in which to, presumably, live the simple, frugal existence of the merely very wealthy. As long as they did it “hand in hand.” Gag me with a spoon.
5. Kidman’s Final Speech
Admittedly less a “moment” than an “era,” it’s sort of hard to remember a time when we weren’t listening to the climactic speech that Kidman’s Grace delivers at a politically explosive Red Cross Ball at the end of the film. Clearly meant to be the centerpiece of a tour-de-force performance, it’s let down by, well the entire film to that point, and indeed the writing of the speech itself which is supposedly so eloquent and brilliant that it effects a wholesale change of heart in crusty ol’ De Gaulle, but in fact is just a randomly collected sequence of sappy cliches about Love and Fairy Tales and How No One Should Be Mean To Monaco Because Grace Kelly Likes Monaco. And it is interminable. Perhaps she just wears everybody down? Mushily written and mushily delivered, what should be a towering triumphant moment as Grace singlehandedly Saves Monaco is instead just desperately overcooked, but thankfully we have plenty of reaction shots of people looking grudgingly impressed and Maria Callas being moved to tears to signal its intended effect. Incidentally, you know you’ve got problems when Paz Vega miming to a Maria Callas track is the most convincing performance in your movie…
6. Introduce Everyone Twice
“You have to stay,” hisses Princess Antoinette’s husband to his wife, in an early party scene, looking over at Rainier “He’s your brother.” But don’t worry if you didn’t catch that because a couple of scenes later Antoinette herself (Geraldine Somerville) helpfully reminds us that Grace “is married to my brother.” Never having the remotest confidence (perhaps justifiably) that anyone’s characterization is clear, Dahan and his screenwriter Arash Amel elect to constantly introduce and reintroduce everybody with clunky lines of dialogue that reiterate their relationships to one another, and often their names. So it’s all “Well you would say that, you’re Aristotle Onassis” and “Speaking as your Minister for the Interior, I must protest!”-type lines that inadvertently give the impression that the whole film takes places at a mixer event at which everyone’s forgotten to wear their name tags.
And one extra for good measure:
Madge (Parker Posey) Burns Down The Palace Out Of Devotion To Rainier’s Previous Wife
Ok, this doesn’t happen, but seriously it’s the only thing stopping Posey’s hilariously sinister performance as Madge the so-obviously-shady-she-can’t-
Knowing the film’s torrid history with The Weinstein Company (who at one point threatened to drop it altogether but have since kinda patched things up) it’s anyone’s guess when it’ll get a U.S. release, but the lucky French public get to gobble down this sumptuous platter of fromage from today. Meantime, just take our word for it, “Grace of Monaco” may be one of the worst Cannes openers ever, but that doesn’t mean that watching it wasn’t a fitfully joyous experience.