July 3, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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MONTE CARLO:  Watch It At Home – The Usual Tourist Stops


Beware the credit “Screen Story by.”  It means that whatever the original source material for a movie may have been, it’s essentially been abandoned, looted for a single story element that’s now attached to an entirely different script.  In the case of MONTE CARLO, Kelly Bowe gets the dreaded credit, and indeed, as has been recounted, the film that’s just been released is only tangentially related to the novel “Headhunters” that was originally placed into development.  That movie, which would have starred Nicole Kidman (she retains a producer credit here), was about adult American women who cynically pretend to be heiresses in Europe in order to attract husbands.  Monte Carlo, on the other hand, is a tweener romantic farce about three girls (an 18-year old and a pair of 21-year olds) who get to indulge in wish-fulfillment when it turns out the youngest of them is the identical twin to a bitchy English heiress; along the way, they find true love.


Just reading the WGA credits for Monte Carlo provides a lesson in studio development:  Bowe and co-screenwriter April Blair are chiefly known (?) for a Jessica Simpson vehicle called Major Movie Star; farther down the credit line is Maria Maggenti, best remembered for the gay-themed romance The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls In Love; and handling the transition from one version to the other is director/co-writer Thomas Bezucha, who last made The Family Stone.  What they’ve collectively come up with is the story of Grace (Selena Gomez), a small-town Texas waitress who’s been saving all her life for a post-high school week in Europe with her best buddy, fellow waitress Emma (Katie Cassidy), who’s a little older and yearning for better things; at the last minute, Grace’s parents force her to take along her stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester), who’s sheltered, reserved and snobby, and therefore not great company.

After a dreary first day in Paris, they accidentally discover that Grace is a virtual clone of British tabloid queen Cordelia Winthrop Scott, whose character is about as original as her name.  Since the trio conveniently overhear that Cordelia is planning to skip a charity benefit in Monte Carlo that’s been planned around her, they decide to have Grace take her place.  This allows Grace and Meg to find hunky clean-cut beaus, a rich one for Grace and a glamorous drifter to loosen up Meg (once we know that Emma’s got her own hunky clean-cut beau at home, played no less by Glee‘s Cory Monteith, it’s clear that she’ll be the character who finds out There’s No Place Like Home).

If you changed the clothes slightly, Monte Carlo could easily have been filmed in 1954, when the fantasy was called Three Coins In the Fountain or How To Marry a Millionaire.  As in Roman Holiday (1953) the main sign of hedonism is when one character hops on a Vespa.  Calming things down even further, the need to attract Gomez’s Disney Channel audience meant that the script had to be strenuously scrubbed to achieve a PG rating (the girls don’t so much as take a sip of alcohol, much less use a dirty word), so none of the romances get farther than a chaste kiss.


All of this could have been OK if the patched-together script had any cleverness, or the wish-fulfillment some charm, but it’s all totally routine.  Worse:  it turned out to be a very bad idea to create a Selena Gomez vehicle where she has to simulate a British accent; she’s barely convincing playing an American.  Cassidy and Meester fare better (Meester, in particular, badly needs to get her hands on a decent script after The Roommate and this), but not enough to disguise the movie’s dreariness.  Monte Carlo doesn’t even do a good job of depicting the relationshp between the 3 girls; it’s sad but accurate to say that it falls behind the Sisterhood Of the Traveling Pants series in that respect.  Bezucha’s Family Stone was overrated, and he does nothing here either visually or with the actors to suggest he’s got as-yet-hidden capabilities.

Monte Carlo is harmless, and if you need to park a 11 year-old girl in front of the TV for 2 hours without doing her any damage (except in an aesthetic sense), this will do the trick.  Just don’t expect her to be particularly enchanted, or even entertained.


(MONTE CARLO – 20th Century Fox – PG – 109 minutes- Director:  Thomas Bezucha – Script:  Bezucha, April Blair, Maria Maggenti – Cast:  Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Cory Monteith, Luke Bracey, Pierre Boulanger, Andie McDowell, Catherine Tate, Brett Cullen – Wide Release)

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."