Nicole Kidman sparkled on the Cannes red carpet but her controversial film Grace of Monaco fizzled as it was savaged by critics at the famed film festival.
Starring Kidman as actress-turned-royal Grace Kelly, the movie copped some of the worst reviews for a Cannes opener with critics dubbing it dull, cheesy and unintentionally funny.
Controversy had plagued the film long before Wednesday night’s premiere in the French Riviera and Kidman leapt to its defence, despite admitting recent criticism from Monaco’s royal family had been “awkward”.
Kelly’s children Prince Albert II and his sisters Caroline and Stephanie last week blasted the film for its fictional nature, saying it had been “misappropriated for purely commercial purposes”.
They did not attend the premiere despite being regulars in recent years.
The film focuses on the period in Kelly’s life after she married Monaco’s Prince Rainier in 1956, when high tensions between the state and France prompted her to turn down an offer from Alfred Hitchcock to return to acting.
Kidman and director Olivier Dahan stressed it was not a biopic and “artistic licence” had been taken but the Australian Oscar winner insists her portrayal was one of respect and love.
“I feel sad (by the family’s reaction) because I think the film has no malice towards the family or particularly towards Grace or Rainier,” Kidman said on Wednesday.
“Ultimately, if they ever did see it they would see there was an enormous amount of affection for both of their parents and the love story of their parents.”
Kidman shone in a dazzling lavender blue embellished gown as the stars of the film arrived for the out-of-competition premiere on a clear Cannes night.
Earlier on Wednesday the film was shown to the international press where it was met with a muted, delayed applause at the conclusion.
Reviews then began to flow and most were unkind.
UK newspaper The Guardian called it a “breathtaking catastrophe” in a one-star review.
“Naomi Watts set the bar high with last year’s Princess-Di disaster. But Nicole Kidman has outdone her,” the review said.
The Hollywood reporter called the film “relentlessly middlebrow mush” while Variety described it as a “cardboard and frequently cornball melodrama”.
Empire magazine said it was “often side-splittingly funny. The trouble is, its not actually meant to be a comedy”.
Kidman was not spared the wrath of critics, though reception of her performance was slightly more favourable.
“Kidman excels in a role in which she is called on to project glamour and suffering in equal measure,” The Independent said in one of few positive reviews of the film.
Grace of Monaco had also been plagued by a long-standing tussle between Dahan and US distributor Harvey Weinstein over the final version of the film.
Weinstein had reportedly considered dropping the rights to the film altogether but a deal has been reached for US distribution.
“There is no dispute anymore, everything has been resolved. We’re working together, and I’m happy about it,” Dahan said.
Grace of Monaco will be released in Australia on June 5.