Friday, July 1, 2011

Monte Carlo

MPAA (PG) CNS/USCCB (A-II) Roger Ebert (2 stars) Fr. Dennis (3 stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

 It’s the summer, so travelogue movies are “in season,” and I found Monte Carlo (directed and cowritten by Thomas Bezucha and April Blair and others) to be a particularly sweet one.

Grace (played by Selena Gomez), a part time waitress at a diner in a small town on the plains of Texas is graduating from High School.  She had been saving to go to Paris for a trip after graduation, “putting money away in a cookie jar” whenever she could since at least the beginning of her freshman year.  Along the way, she convinced a slightly older co-worker Emma (played by Katie Cassidy) to go with her as well.  The movie begins on graduation day, and they seem to be set. 

At the last minute, Grace’s 21 year-old new step-sister Meg (played by Leighton Meester) is thrown into the mix by their recently married parents, Grace’s mom Pam (played by Andie MacDowell) and Meg’s widowed father Robert (played by Brett Cullen).  Adult or almost-adult chidren of recently remarried parents, the two, Grace and Meg, had clearly not fully accepted their parents’ new arrangement or each other as "sisters."  Added to this college senior Meg really didn’t like waitress Emma.  Both Grace and Meg are not thrilled with their parents’ meddling.  But both parents _insist_, so there... 

Emma has her own little drama to deal with.  Long time boyfriend, Owen (played by Cory Monteith), really doesn’t understand why Emma has to go on this trip to Paris: “All I need is right her in my truck,” he says to her seated next to him in his pickup.  Emma responds that she’s never even been outside of Texas and really would like to go.  So Emma leaves on the trip after having had this fight with Owen.

So there the three go - Grace, Emma and Meg - arriving in Paris together and soon discover that the “value package tour” that they purchased was less than they had hoped for.  In particular, the tour guide, Madame Valerie (played by Valerie Lemecier) seemed obsessed with keeping both “on schedule and on budget.”  So for different reasons all three are aghast – Emma has trouble keeping up with the tour because all she brought for the trip were high heels (for “stylish Paris”).  College student Meg is appalled that the tour group had to sprint through Louvre without so much as stopping at a single painting to catch a breath, much less admire it, and Grace feels embarrassed that “this was all her fault,” that “she booked the worst tour in Paris.”

Their fortunes change however after they are left by the tour group atop the Eiffel Tower.  Emma simply can’t get down the steps of the Eiffel Tower in time.  Trying to get back to their hotel by foot, they get caught in a rain storm.  To get out of the rain, they enter a very posh hotel and ... that’s while they are in the ladies’ room they accidently run into a snotty young English heiress named Cordelia Winthrop Scott who looks like the spitting image of Grace.  (Indeed, Selena Gomez plays Ms Cordelia as well).

Good ole Cordelia is upset that here she is in Parish though her luggage was still somewhere else and all her friends are in Majorca.  In a tiff, Ms Cordelia leaves the hotel presumably to go to Majorca without saying anything to the receptionist even though he was frantically trying to locate her luggage for her.  Anyway, when the Grace, Meg and Emma step out of the bathroom, the receptionist, indeed the whole hotel staff confuse Grace with Ms Cordelia.  And the rest of the story opens from here ...

Much, mostly sweet, happens afterwards...  Yes, the three are jetted off to Monte Carlo (hence the title of the film) on the French Riviera for a charity benefit that Ms Cordelia should have attended.  Ms Cordelia’s luggage also arrives (to Monte Carlo).  So the three young ladies from Texas now get to dress in fine high society clothes.

What makes the movie _nice_, however, is that the movie goes in the direction of The Princess Diaries rather than Sex and the City.  Indeed, the PG rating is _entirely appropriate_ in the film.  All three of the young ladies “find themselves” and “find their direction” as a result of the trip.  And yes, Emma after getting a taste of “high society” finds that she prefers the waitresses instead.  Indeed, she makes up with Owen.  What happens with the other two, Grace and Meg, I’m not going to reveal here except that remembering that this is a story, (and a sweet one at that) they both “find their destinies,” both of those destinies are nice.  And yes, they also find that they do like each other.  What a nice movie! 

Could they have discovered all that on a Eurail pass rather than in haute rich Monte Carlo?  Certainly, but again this is "a fairytale."  And the exaggeration in the story didn’t hurt. 

A comment then about the screenplay.  Remembering that this is _a story_, I very much enjoyed the tightness of the script.  Throughout the film little things that appeared to be mere details come to have importance later.  Even that the three came from a small town Texas (rather than from a small town in say Ohio or Alabama) made a difference to how a couple of scenes played out.  So viewers, watch for the details and see how the screen writers used them to tie the story together.  I’ve long enjoyed “a good story,” and I found the story telling this movie to be very, very good.  

All in all, I would imagine that this would make for both a nice family movie, especially when a newly “blended family” is trying to come together.  And no, the message _certainly isn't_ that one has to go to “Monte Carlo” (or have a ton of money) to make things work out. Though “going-off on an adventure together" may actually bring a family/new sibblings closer (think of The Incredibles).

And I would also think that this would make for a nice young adult date movie.  Yes, the movie’s a bit corny and the girls would probably enjoy it more than the guys.  But ending with a “happy date” is generally a good thing.  So “going/accepting corny” at times can a good thing as well ;-).

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