Thursday, July 14, 2011

Monte Carlo (Thomas Bezucha, 2011) -- B

Little to no one seems to have pointed out that Thomas Bezucha's Monte Carlo shares its title with a 1930 Ernst Lubitsch film, starring Jeanette MacDonald as a Countess seeking financial security, using the titular destination as backdrop and geographical marker for its adult fantasy. It's a wonderful film - socially conscious and endlessly amusing. The same can be said for Bezucha's film, though to a lesser degree. Three Texas girls head for Paris following high school graduation, each with a certain degree of baggage. Grace (Selena Gomez) has been waiting to graduate so she can flee her small-town roots; Meg (Leighton Meester) is still broken-up over her Mom's death, nearly two years prior; Emma (Katie Cassidy) is conflicted about marrying her long-time boyfriend. The early scenes flatly render motivations with little nuance or heft - it's blunt and hackneyed.

Nevertheless, once they arrive overseas, Bezucha surprisingly allows for reflective moments, not just with the girls, but their imaginations and impressions of the city. Like Midnight in Paris (but refitted for the proper demographic), there's a mix of fantasy and social consciousness - Monte Carlo even more so, since its mistaken identity hook (which kick-starts the narrative's crux) affords immersive, Princess fantasy-as-reality for the trio, but consistently (if half-heartedly) questions bourgeois decadence and the cultural construction of girlhood, materialist desires. Moreover, the film almost completely lacks slapstick gags, quipping children, or pandering sensibilities. It treats these three like young adults, genuinely interested in their fears and anxieties. These specifics are less interesting, though, than the film's playfulness in enacting an implicit contextual understanding, reverent to filmmaking traditions, while responding to the pop cultural zeitgeist without explicit referencing or cynical sneering.

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