The first thing to be said about Grace Of Monaco is that it is not as maul-worthy as it has been made out to be. The next thing to be said about Olivier Dahan’s movie is that it isn’t exactly noteworthy. The best thing that can be said about the 103-minute biopic is that it is always lovely-looking, dressed to the hilt and bathed in the kind of lambent light dear to films about movie and actual royalty.

There is none of the tackiness that marred another recent movie about a similarly embattled royal, Diana. Rather, glamour is present by the truckloads in the tale of how Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) transforms herself from Hollywood heart-throb into the people’s princess of Monaco via a political crisis that threatens the principality’s sovereignty.

Arash Amel’s screenplay intertwines Kelly’s struggle to leave behind a glittering acting career and adjust to the responsibilities that come with being the wife of Monégasque monarch Prince Rainier the III (Tim Roth), with Rainier’s battle to save his kingdom from French premier Charles De Gaulle’s annexation plans.

The repeated close-ups of Kidman’s miraculously smooth face provide inadvertent visual cues for the movie’s surface interest in the psychological motivations of its characters. There is no hint of tragedy in Kelly’s compromise despite advice to the contrary from soprano Maria Callas (Paz Vega), and certainly no confirmation of reports that the prince married her because he wanted a trophy wife who could bear him an heir.

Kidman is coldly efficient, despite little resemblance in look and age to the real person, while Roth is fabulous as the cool and distant husband who gets exactly what he wants in the end. Whatever cracks there may be in this fairy-tale relationship can be glimpsed only by staring very hard at the screen, past its luxe trappings, impeccable décor and crease-proof costumes, and into Kidman’s brittle eyes, which are at odds with the functional dialogue and the assuring parade of predictable victories. She suggests a woman on the verge of an explosion, and her melancholic air manages to faintly hint at the immense sadness that comes with having to give up a career for a life in a gilt-edged zoo.

Grace of Monaco released in theatres on Friday

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