Branded a bona fide stinker when it opened the Cannes Film Festival last week, Grace of Monaco finds Nicole Kidman following in the footsteps of Aussie compatriot Naomi Watts, star of the derided Diana, as another princess in critical peril. It’s 1962 and Kidman’s Princess Grace is suffering her own personal crisis struggling to adapt to Monégasque royal life at the same time as husband Prince Rainier (Tim Roth) is locked in a tax spat with Charles de Gaulle’s France. Hardly the most riveting-sounding of setups and filmmaker Olivier Dahan, the French director of Édith Piaf biopic La vie en rose, compounds the issue, say critics, with his inert treatment, some misjudged performances and a cringeworthy script. A host of walk-ons from historical figures include Maria Callas (Paz Vega), Alfred Hitchcock, Aristotle Onassis and former US defense secretary Robert McNamara.
McNamara, of course, was the subject of Errol Morris’s 2003 Oscar-winning The Fog of War, in which the so-called architect of the Vietnam conflict laid bare his philosophy and his career triumphs and regrets. In The Unknown Known Morris attempts to pull off a similar trick with a more recent US secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. But the man who helped plot the Iraq invasion proves an altogether more slippery customer.
Also out this week is the film that took away the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, 20 Feet from Stardom. Morgan Neville’s movie puts in the limelight the amazing backing singers who have lent their lungs to some of the greatest moments in rock and soul history, supported by interviews with the likes of Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder.
Comic crime drama Dom Hemingway features a fattened up Jude Law as a safecracker released after 12 years inside who sets out to claim the money he feels owed by his boss for keeping his mouth shut. It’s nice to see Richard E. Grant in a supporting role in director Richard Shepard’s movie.
Hailed by Quentin Tarantino as his favorite of last year, Big Bad Wolves is a thriller from Israeli writer-directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, about the father of a teenage murder victim going after the suspected killer, a religious studies teacher.
Hummingbird marks the debut behind the camera of screenwriter Steven Knight, whose second directorial effort, Locke, is already impressing many in the UK and US. British hardman Jason Statham stars as a homeless ex-special forces soldier who breaks into an empty apartment and starts passing himself off as the owner, before becoming embroiled in a criminal underworld.
Italy’s tumultuous political system is the target of comedy-drama Viva la libertà, which stars Toni Servillo, star of Paolo Sorrentino’s sublime The Great Beauty, as both the leader of the opposition and his bipolar philosopher twin brother, who assumes his identity when he does a disappearing act.
From Romania’s Călin Peter Netzer, Child’s Pose won the Golden Bear for Best Film at this year’s Berlin Festival. The thriller stars Luminita Gheorghiu as a mother prepared to go to any lengths to keep her beloved son out of jail after he is involved in a car accident.