By Mandi Kim
”Monte Carlo”,starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy is the kind of film that feels so familiar, yet isn’t actually all that common anymore. It is a geniune, clean and heartfelt “feel good” movie aimed at tweens, and beyond ”The Princess Diaries” I can’t recall many others that have received theatrical release.
The story of how this film came to be is almost as interesting as the film itself. Initially envisioned as a vehicle for Nicole Kidman (who is credited as producer) as one of three Midwestern schoolteachers who decide to pose as wealthy women vacationing in Monaco, this has evolved to become the story of three young adults fresh out of high school, or close enough, looking to escape their small town lives. So it seems we are at a point in society where Nicole Kidman can be replaced by Selena Gomez. Interesting. What I like about tween movies is how often females take centre stage. Perhaps they are more suited to portray this particularly emotional and confusing stage of life? Perhaps studios realise girls in this age bracket are the ones who spend the cash? Whatever the reason it is interesting the way this female presence seems to fade out from more adult movies, as beyond Bridesmaids it is hard to find a cast where the three top billing stars are all of this gender. Essentially, this movie passes the Bechdel Test for Women in Films in spades, and you would be surprised how many do not.
The film begins in Texas, around high school graduate Grace (Selena Gomez), her slightly older best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy) and her uptight step-sister Meg (Leighton Meester), as they prepare for a much dreamed about trip to Paris. Meg is a late addition to the itinerary, and no one seems too pleased about it, but the biggest disappointment to the trio is the trip itself ,as their dream Paris tour turns out to be more budget than beautiful. This opening section of the film is its real strength, as quite a bit of care has gone into creating depth and backstory for the characters. Also if you ‘ve been to Europe and can’t relate to the fleabag motel they initially stay in, and run through the Lourve at full speed, then you had a very different European experience to me.
In what is essentially a quite absurd premise for a film, they got one more plot point spot on: you really can’t stumble on the steps of the Sacre Coeur without hitting an Aussie backpacker. We really do love to travel. In this case, the Australian happens to be Riley (Luke Bracey) a very charismatic and good looking guy who takes a shining to Meg.
After getting separated from their tour and taking shelter in a fancy hotel, there is a case of mistaken identity in which Grace convincingly takes on a British accent. The traveling trio then decide to make the most of their holiday, get swept up in the glamour of the high class, and before they know it are boarding a private plane to Monaco.
The film is well cast and the acting is a real stregnth of the film. The three stars bounce off each other well, and the film suffers when they are separated in the second half of the film to go on their own romances and adventures. Gomez is charming and relateable, Meester delivers a sadness to her character that is very affecting, and Cassidy just lights up the screen every time she comes on.
By the lighthearted music cues, and wacky acting on the part of those around the three girls, you gather that humour was attempted at some points, but unfortunately largley falls flat. The film would have greatly beneffited from some geniune laughs, but maybe a younger audience would disagree with me.
In the end deception is uncovered, lessons are learning, and everyone gets along. If you’re looking for a cute and harmless film then you can do a lot worse. The Monte Carlo setting is visually stunning, and there’s some very pretty outfits as well.
Deleted scenes, featurettes, games…. (squeal!)