The Grace Kelly melodrama ''Grace of Monaco'' kicked off the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday with classic French Riviera glamour, behind-the-scenes controversy and emphatic boos from critics.
The film, starring Nicole Kidman as Kelly during her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco (Tim Roth), gave Cannes some local Cote d'Azur color and star wattage for a flashy opening. But it also started the 11-day festival on an unusually tumultuous note.
''Grace of Monaco'' has for months been embroiled in a feud over the final edit with North American distributor the Weinstein Co. It has also been criticized by the Monaco royal family as inaccurate. (The film, which chronicles Kelly's retirement from Hollywood and adjustment to life as a European princess, is a labeled as a ''fictional account inspired by real events.'')
But director Olivier Dahan ("La Vie en Rose'') and Weinstein Co. co-chairman Harvey Weinstein swept their differences under the red carpet Wednesday. After twice postponing its U.S. release, the Weinstein Co. will distribute Dahan's version, albeit for a lesser fee.
''There is only one version of the film,'' Dahan said, adding that any changes would be made mutually. ''There is no longer any dispute. We work well together.''
Yet ''Grace of Monaco'' was met with some of the worst reviews for a Cannes opener after screening for the press early Wednesday. The Hollywood Reporter called the film ''a stiff, stagey, thunderingly earnest affair which has generated far more drama off screen than on.''
Reports had questioned whether Weinstein would spurn the premiere, causing him to issue a statement Wednesday saying he was traveling on a long-planned trip. He wished Dahan and the cast ''all the best'' for the screening.
Kidman was clearly excited by the part - playing a great actress she admires and is arguably her equal in stature. But Kidman said the refusal by Princess Stephanie of Monaco to see the film about her parents was ''awkward.''
''I feel sad because I think the film has no malice toward the family,'' said Kidman. ''You take dramatic license at times, but I understand also because it's their mother and father.''
The festival jury, which decides the prestigious Palme d'Or award, led by Jane Campion, was also introduced Wednesday. As the only female filmmaker to win the Palme (for ''The Piano'' in 1993), Campion faced questions that have often surrounded Cannes about the inclusion of women directors.
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