Monte Carlo. Starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy. Directed by Thomas Bezucha. 109 minutes. Rated PG (mild language, themes).
Slipping into a holiday afternoon show at a multiplex, I found myself with the target audience (plus a few oldies and grandparents) and they all seemed to enjoy the shenanigans in Monte Carlo. The target audience is definitely teen girls (of all ages) with the characters being 18 and 21.
Apparently, this project started life as an adult romantic comedy for Nicole Kidman (whose name appears as one of the producers, as does Forest Whittaker) and Julia Roberts. It would have been the modern equivalent of those Golden Oldies like Three Coins in the Fountain, three women finding romance in a lovely European city, scenery and all. The powers that be reduced the ages of the three women and sent them to Paris. But, Paris was not enough and the plot soon takes them to Monte Carlo. There’s romance (all very PG level) and there’s beautiful scenery (and a clip from To Catch a Thief to honour Grace Kelly and all that romantic aura of Monaco half a century ago or more).
What gives the film more verve than might have been expected are the performances and the vivacity of the three actresses. Singer-actress Selena Gomez is Grace, an 18 year old from Texas who graduates and has been saving up for a trip to France (Andie MacDowell appears in a scene or two as her mother). There is her good friend, Emma, 21, a down-to-earth high school dropout who works at a diner (Katie Cassidy almost stealing the show with her bright screen presence) and Meg, 21, Grace’s new half-sister (Leighton Meester who has change from snobby prim to letting her hair down).
After a nightmare rushed cheapo tour of Paris, Grace is mistaken for a British heiress, in France for a charity auction. She embodies all that film-makers caricature in creating an obnoxious (that’s an understatement!), snobbily domineering, self-centred upper class horror. It is to Selena Gomez’s credit that she makes Cordelia Winthrop Scott live up to this description.
Yes, the plot then becomes a modern version of The Prince and the Pauper as Grace is bundled by mistake off to Monte Carlo, and the girls decide to live it up for a few days. Grace encounters a charming young Frenchman. Meg has already met an Australian backpacker in Paris who turns up in Monte Carlo (Luke Bray from Home and Away, looking like a blend of Heath Ledger and Simon Baker). Emma encounters a prince and finds that he is also a snob, especially when, being ignored at dinner with his friends all speaking French, she decides to help the waitresses with their clearing the tables. But she has a Texan beau who comes to France to find her.
The final expose of the three is fairytale enjoyable, aided by British comedian, Catherine Tate, as Cordelia’s aunt. The film’s heart is in the right place: down with the wealthy snobs, up with charity and volunteering – and true love.
Fluff, of course, but sparkling fluff.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out September 22, 2011.