Director: Thomas Bezucha
Runtime: 109 minutes
Monte Carlo is a good-natured throwback to romantic comedies that took place in exotic locations for no reason other than for escapism. Here is a film that’s pure escapism, light and upbeat if missing a biting wit that would have made this delightful. Instead it’s an adventure film with a farce structure but refuses to waltz into farce, holding the line. Selena Gomez stars as a recent Texas highly graduate, who is sent by her step father to Paris with her best friend, Emma (Katie Cassidy) and her half-sister whom she has tenuous relationship with, Meg (Leighton Meester).
Staying only one night in Paris (hey, wasn’t that title of something else?) they see key tourist destinations at a break-neck speed, but when they slow down they get stuck. They discover Gomez’s Grace looks an awful lot like rich heiress/snob Cordelia Winthrop Scott (why can’t snobby heiress ever have boring names like Kristen or Ashley?). Posing as Cordelia they are ferreted off to Monte Carlo on a private plane where there are adventures, often those including self-discovering. Only a few years ago the Olsen twins would have been playing these roles.
The film is a good ol’ fashioned adventure film about finding yourself. So escapist, I have to wonder why kids in these movies never are going to state school – they are always going to NYU (where Grace is going), Brown, Stamford, Columbia, Yale – product placement? I’m calling on you, Morgan Spurlock, to explain this, starting with Freddie Prinze Jr.’s college acceptance letters in She’s All That.
Directed by Thomas Bezucha, a fashion executive who previously made the down home queer romantic comedies Big Eden and The Family Stone, there is plenty of fashion on display, which is also part of the escapist factor. Films like this have their place, if only they were delivered with more wit and humor. The performances are fine but the dialogue could have been punched up a bit, and therefore, the energy.
A favorite of mine is Katie Cassidy a women that dropped out of high school to pursue a modeling career (which is limited in her small Texas home). She creates a strong-willed Texas women, the type that should be shooting whiskey and listening to Gretchen Wilson, but Bezucha never gives her the material to develop this. Granted this could have been a star-making role for Cassidy.
The star of the film is clearly Gomez, who is effective at inhabiting both roles, but Cordelia Winthrop Scott is perhaps an awful human being. When Grace messes up and asks how someone is, they think she’s joking. The film presents itself (and us) with this paradox: if it took a high energy Will Gluck-style approach we could overlook Cordelia, but since its more dramatic than funny or a farce, Cordelia also needs further development.
Monte Carlo is decent for what it is. Everyone except Cordelia is good spirited and nice, and the exotic locations are just that. Of course, the best Woody Allen movie in years, Midnight In Paris, is probably still playing in a theatre near you, may I suggest it would make a better evening out.
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