03 November 2012


Twelve Things about Monte Carlo

12. Ever since my sixteenth year came and went without a single romantic song and dance in a moonlit garden's gazebo (Name that film!), I've become quite the Scrooge--or if you prefer, the Grinch--of the teenage romantic fantasy, as perfected by Hollywood.

But there's something about it that I just can't quit. And like a good heroin dealer, Hollywood always has some smack. Welcome to my latest trip . . . to Monte Carlo. =P

11. Whenever someone parrots that platitude about travel expanding and improving the mind, I feel like quoting Mike Brady, who said, "Wherever you go, there you are." It's a line that was played for laughs in The Brady Bunch Movie, but it also happens to be true.

Heck, even Mahatma Gandhi apparently thought so--although he put a different spin on it. As he is quoted (twice!) Monte Carlo: "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

It's almost enough to make you forget that this movie is less about changing the world than it is about being changed by the world. =P

10. Before we go any further, we should note that the original destination of dreams for our world travelers was not Monte Carlo, but Paris.

On the Holiest Hill in the City of Lights
And Totally Clueless about It

But Paris turns out to be a big bust (Wow, really?),
so they hop cities the way normal girls hop clubs.

9. Now I should probably introduce them properly, aye? So let's go from right to left . . .

Gomez plays Grace (Ahem! Ahem!) Bennett, a middle-class Everygirl who lacks only the pixie dust it takes to bloom in the small, Middle America town where she has been planted. (I don't mean to sound too critical. I don't have pixie dust, either.)

Kate Cassidy plays Emma Perkins, Grace's best friend and the kind of girl you'd hate if you weren't friends with her. (You know . . . saucy, kind of sexy, popular with the boys, and secure enough not to care what the girls think. With the requisite heart of gold.)

Leighton Meester plays Meg Kelly (Ahem! Ahem!), Emma's former best friend and Grace's new stepsister. She was originally not supposed to be on this trip (which Grace and Emma have spent the past two years saving up for), but her father wanted "to kick this new sister thing into high gear" and so bought her a ticket and upgraded Grace and Emma to first class.

If you think about it, this is really Meg's fantasy, isn't it?
She's the one who is whisked away . . .

8. Will it surprise you now to learn that Monte Carlo is not a Disney movie? Believe it or not, the Disney studios of this decade would never have produced something like this. For all the brand's association with the princess fantasy, it is more likely these days to turn its princesses into plebes. The modern Disney heroine is an extraordinary girl who can shine in an ordinary setting.

Insofar as Monte Carlo insists on a dream trip to Europe, it is less Disney than it is Eat Pray Love for teens.

7. As much as I like Gomez and Meester, it was someone else who made me scream like a crazy fangirl when I saw she was in this movie . . .

Even the champagne bottles are ecstatic to see her

I'd explain my overwhelming respect for Catherine Tate in a way that would make you all love her, too--but that would totally hijack this post, so maybe I'll do it another time.

6. Besides, there's one more girl character to explain . . . It turns out that Grace is a dead ringer (Ahem! Ahem!) for a famous British heiress who is as rotten as she is rich. And her rottenness is as essential as her riches are, because it's the only way for our three American heroines to rationalise their decision "to borrow" her identity . . . and her clothes . . . and her jewels . . . and her make up . . . and her five-star hotel suites . . . and her private jet . . .

The ethics of the story give me pause, but since no one really gets hurt (or arrested), I can go with the flow as well as any of them.

5. What I do find a little hard to swallow is the fact that Texas girl Grace happens to be decent at polo. Or at least decent enough to pass for a girl who owns her own polo pony and is welcome at matches with other rich kids who have presumably had lessons with the best. Monte Carlo may be an unlikely fantasy, but that doesn't mean it has to have plot holes you could ride a horse through.

4. Now about those jewels: you might have noticed the huge Bulgari-esque necklace that Gomez is wearing on the poster, yes?

Just in case you needed a closer look

Every time a super-expensive, borrowed necklace plays a key part in a plot, I think of the Guy de Maupassant short story La Parure, which all but spells out for us that a pretty necklace today may become a collar with a chain tomorrow. There is nothing so moralistic--or so tragic--here, of course; but I thought the connection worth making anyway.

3. This may be Gomez's vehicle, but now I'm going to tell you who the real Style Star is. I think I'm in love . . .

. . . with with Leighton Meester . . .

. . . 's dress. ;-)

It is easily--and I mean, hands down--the classiest thing about the whole movie. Classy and classic. Just look at her. In that dress, her character could have been around in the 1950s, and this movie could be a remake of Three Coins in a Fountain . . . or of To Catch a Thief . . . or even of Roman Holiday. If I ever watch Monte Carlo again, I will skip every scene that does not have this dress. (Yes, even the Catherine Tate scenes.)

Of course, the catch is that all the scenes that do have this dress are the ones most full of my personal brand of smack.

2. Forget everyone else's romantic fantasy. It is Meg's that made me scream at the screen, "Oh, give me a break! That never bloody happens in real life!"

That is, it was the one that reawakened my innocent faith in gardens, gazebos, moonlight, and music. Then I had to stab it in the heart with a stake, stuff its mouth full of garlic, and force it back into its coffin of cynicism all over again. Not as easy as I make it sound.

I may be weary of being the girl who sighs and wonders when all those lovely things are going to happen to her (because I've been doing it for so long that I'm no longer a girl!) . . . but it's much sadder to be the grown woman who shakes her head and knows that Hollywood is a heroin dealer of the highest (or lowest?) order. There's got to be something in between the sleepy hometown where nothing ever seems to happen and the cosmopolitan city of dreams a whole ocean away.

1. Let me leave you with the song that plays over the end credits . . . and that I have been playing over and over since I saw this movie.

Image Source: Monte Carlo poster, b) Monte Carlo cast at Mont-marte, c) Catherine Tate, d) Necklace, e) Best Dress Ever


Belfry Bat said...

12 : Nothing comes from nothing—nothing ever could/So somewhere in my youth—or childhood—I must have done something g...

Iirc, however, that boy R. turned out something of a cad, and L. had a narrow escape. SO.

Belfry Bat said...

Oh, btw, I'm quite sure polo ponies actually come in quartets at least; it's too much galloping all at once for one horse to manage.

Enbrethiliel said...


And apparently the plot hole is big enough for four horses galloping abreast! (Can you say "abreast" when referring to horses?) There is only one pony, and Grace bonds with it so much that she wants to brush herself it after the match. There's no way the story would flow the same way with more than one horse.