Monte Carlo [Review by Haus]
On the demand side, the big challenge with film reviews is fairly simple: Find a reviewer whose opinion you respect more often than not. Supply side, it’s twofold: Find something meaningful to say without grasping at straws, and avoid alienating whatever small following you’ve amassed by wholeheartedly endorsing second-rate films. A reviewer — yes, even a strictly amateur self-publishing hack with an audience smaller than a Wednesday matinee of Drive Angry — should at the very least not shepherd his flock into The Green Lantern. It’s a tacit agreement. Well, now it’s explicit.
So you can understand my trepidation when I confess that I actually enjoyed Monte Carlo. I cannot in good conscience recommend that you see it, since I doubt most people would enjoy it (and this is borne out by Parsi’s predictable reaction). But for me, it delivered precisely what I went in for.
Just as Parsi today justifies his affection for Larry Crowne in part with reference to his own past employment in a bowling alley, I must resort to some personal tidbits to explain my eagerness to see Monte Carlo.
They’re pretty simple and I’ll dispense with them quickly. First, I’ve spent some time in Monaco — the principality is one of my favorite places. Second, I have a particular appreciation for a genre we might call “teenage wish-fulfillment.”
Monte Carlo the film supplied me with countless on-location shots of Monte Carlo the place, which I enjoyed for the admittedly non-reproducible reason that they reminded me of other things. A reception in that very hall! Drinks on that very balcony! Jimmy’z, this sidewalk, that circle, and so on. The Hotel de Paris is unquestionably the star of this picture. If you love Monaco, look past this fetid little story and see it for the scenery. It’s not exactly a Woody Allen montage — come on, Woody, warm up to la Principauté aleady — but compared with the usual trenchcoat-flash establishing shot in a spy film, it’ll certainly do. Enough said.
With that out of the way, let’s turn to the story. Selena Gomez graduates from high school (though she looks about 11) and travels to Paris (omg!) with two other girls. Their lousy tour whisks them from hotspot to hotspot, never allowing them to pause and soak in the ambience (which, mind you, is in short supply at these tourist traps anyway. This first act is refreshing in that it offers a reasonably faithful picture of what Gomez’s fans can actually expect if they elect to follow her character’s breadcrumbs to Paris.) Gomez is then mistaken for an heiress (omg!) and hustled off to Monaco to preside over a charity auction. (Gomez also plays the heiress, bien sur, in a “performance” regularly eclipsed by four-year-old girls playing princess in their bedrooms. It’s truly painful.) A wholly predictable tale follows: The three girls each find guys (or in one case, realizes her down home authentic Texas man is all she really needs) and galavant around, though Gomez is plagued by the standard he-likes-me-for-me-but-I’m-lying-about-who-I-am problem. Will she be found out? (Obvitown.) Will the guy like her in the end? (Gee.) Blah, blah.
As teenage wish-fulfillment pictures go, it’s not very good. First, I was regularly distracted by the fact that the previously-unstudied Gomez in fact looks exactly like Taylor Lautner, the werewolf dude from Twilight. (Upon Googling for images to highlight this comparison I made the unwelcome discovery that these two have apparently dated — as for what special brand of narcissist prefers to date its own gender-bending doppelgaenger, I will leave that stone unturned.) Second, I never managed to unravel the central relationship between the three main characters (who, incidentally, were meant to be quite different ages — unusual for a teeny bopper buddy flick). Are they sisters? Half-sisters? School friends? The answer seems to be some overlapping mixture of the three. Probably unimportant, since nothing really is done with it.
And some parts were downright strange, like the honest-to-goodness giddy drug-fueled trance that Leighton Meester lapsed into every time her Heath Ledger lookalike shared the screen. They giggled and bounced around, wide-eyed like they’d been smoking the bad pipe. Inexplicable, if curiously entertaining.
Save for trite truisms, there is really no moral to be extracted from Monte Carlo. We learn that being “true to yourself” pays off (though we are of course asked to ignore the fact that a “good” person might not have run around for a week in the first place impersonating a living celebrity and gobbling up consumables on someone else’s tab). We also are told that materialism is bad because class divides are bad, this in turn seemingly because it involves subjugation through service. But underpaid maids clean Texas Motel Sixes just as much as Monegasque palatial hotels, and these stirrings of egalitarianism and equality certainly don’t stop the girls oohing and aahing over every designer handbag, cocktail gown, and luggage set. In this, the film actually mounts a reasonably faithful portrayal of limousine liberals — so that’s something. (Of course, one wouldn’t really expect austerity or wage equality to be the take-home messages from a Monte Carlo-based princess pic. In a sense it’s strange that it even tries.)
So that’s that. We saw Monte Carlo. You likely need not.
HAUS VERDICT: Cannot in good conscience recommend this to anyone but myself.
See what the other half thinks: Parsi’s view.