The Cannes Film Festival has kicked off with classic French Riviera glamour, behind-the-scenes controversy and a string of damning reviews for its showpiece curtain-raiser.
Nicole Kidman’s performance as the late Grace Kelly was jeered by critics at a preview screening ahead of its red-carpet world premiere.
Laughter was even heard during the press screening of Grace of Monaco, after which reviewers described it as “puzzlingly misjudged” and “a stiff, stagey, thuddingly earnest affair”.
The Australian superstar was later forced to defend the film at a press conference. Set in the early 1960s during the early years of Kelly’s marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco, the film has already been criticised by the current royal family.
And it has also been at the centre of a reported rift between producer Harvey Weinstein and director Olivier Dahan over the final cut. The film stars Tim Roth as the late Rainier.
Kelly’s children, Prince Albert and his two sisters Caroline and Stephanie, have called the film a “farce” with no basis in reality – a critique which Kidman said made her “sad”.
The actress added: “The film has no malice towards the family, nor to Grace nor Rainier. It’s fictionalised, it’s not a biopic. It’s the essence of truth. But you take dramatic licence at times.”
Kidman said she understood Kelly’s children feeling protective of their mother, who died in a car crash in 1982.
She added: “I still have respect and I want them to know the performance was done with love. Ultimately if they ever did see [the movie], I think they would see there was an enormous amount of affection for both of their parents and for the love story of their parents.”
Empire magazine said the film “may be the first true, timeless camp classic ever to open this festival”.
Critic Damon Wise said: “It’s an easy watch, lush, stylish, stars Nicole Kidman and is often side-splittingly funny. The trouble is, it’s not actually meant to be a comedy.”
Variety’s chief film critic, Scott Foundas, described the film as a “cardboard and frequently cornball melodrama”.
He added: “Handsomely produced but as dramatically inert as star Nicole Kidman’s frigid cheek muscles.”
Screen Daily’s review described Grace of Monaco as “puzzlingly misjudged, a minor royal Euro-pudding”, while the Hollywood Reporter branded it “a stale wedding cake of pomp and privilege”.
Grace of Monaco was screening out of competition at the festival, where 18 films are in the running for the top honour, the Palme d’Or award.
They include new features from British directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, for their respective films on an Irish political activist, Jimmy’s Hall, and Mr Turner, in which Timothy Spall plays the English artist JMW Turner.
Two Scottish films are screening at the festival: Billy Connolly’s new comedy What We Did on Holiday, which he shot on location with David Tennant in the Highlands last year; and ’71, a new thriller set at the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles.