Movie: Monte Carlo

Screen Reviews: Chick Flicks ‘Monte Carlo’ and TV’s Twentysomething

Monte Carlo is a 'dishonest' chick flick pairing fabulous luxury, with a common girl’s chance to end up with prince, says critic Mark Hadley.

By Mark HadleyTuesday 20 Sep 2011Movies

Monte Carlo

Rating:  PG
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: September 22

Monte Carlo is specifically aimed at the Miley Cyrus and Princess Diaries set – a girls romp in France that combines fabulous luxury with a common girl’s chance to end up dating a prince. And the whole fairy tale is made possible by a sadly familiar take on dishonesty.

Monte Carlo actually begins its story in Middle America where high school Grace (Selena Gomez) is preparing for life after graduation by saving for a dream trip to Paris.

Coming along for the ride are sassy best friend Meg (Leighton Meester) and her less than happy stepsister Emma (Katie Cassidy). However the perfect holiday turns into a perfect disaster when tours and hotels fail to measure up to their glossy brochures. Marooned in the rain, the trio takes refuge in a swanky hotel where Grace is mistaken for the arrogant heiress Cordelia Winthrop Scott. Trading on this borrowed identity, they travel to Monte Carlo where Grace/Cordelia is expected to take part in a charity auction. Predictably, just as all three find their perfect soul mates, the real Cordelia turns up threatening to turn their daydream into a nightmare.

Monte Carlo Movie stills

Much of Monte Carlo is a harmless excuse for young girls to mentally play ‘dress ups’ and wonder what it would be like to live a privileged life. The girls are in heaven when they discover Cordelia’s wardrobe; Hollywood helpfully overlooks the fact the heiress wouldn’t wear three sizes of clothing.

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The film is also filled with doses of American culture, reminding everyone that we’re all equal, no matter what labels we wear. When the spoilt Prince Domenico takes Meg to dinner, he’s disturbed when she begins to collect the dirty dishes. “There are people who do that,” he says, attempting to stop her. “Yes, I know,” she replies, demonstrating her down-home values.

Truth is the quality that gets the most battering, though. Grace knows they are doing something wrong by impersonating Cordelia but only really feels the impact when their deception looks likely to hurt homeless orphans in Romania. Predictably the girls manage to make everything turn out all right, but what the viewer is left with is a ‘no harm, no foul’ morality.

Monte Carlo only counts the end result of an action and finishes with a thoroughly utilitarian view of right and wrong. So long as nothing was actually stolen – the dresses were returned, right? – and no-one was hurt – Cordelia actually learned a valuable lesson – the trio’s actions are excusable, even laudable. It’s a far cry from the Bible’s exernal standards of right and wrong and can only function in a world where girls are allowed to act as their own judges.

Monte Carlo Movie stills


Twentysomething

Rating:  M
Distributor: ABC2
Release Date: Tuesdays, 9:00 PM

Turn the page of a newspaper, switch on the telly or tune into a radio station and you’re likely to come across someone discussing Generation Y: how they think, who they respect, what they want. Twentysomething is not the first Australian drama to focus on that slice of the population, but it’s possibly the most pessimistic.

Twentysomething is a six-part dark comedy about Jess (Jess Harris) and Josh (Josh Schmidt), two flat mates born some time in the eighties, who are yet to find their way out of adolescence. The series opens with their carefree household facing eviction the day after they simultaneously decide their jobs are just ‘not for them’. Both are also dogged by friends and family asking the dreaded question, “So what are you doing with your life?” When employment agencies can’t provide a satisfying solution, the pair decide to go into business for themselves. Their less than successful schemes include erotic house cleaning, guided tours of Melbourne and bounty hunting for lost dogs. What drives them on is a refusal to accept less than a completely satisfactory life. However what hampers them is the refusal to realise that life’s benefits are earned.

I’m not certain if we’re supposed to feel sad for Jess and Josh, or respect them for their boundless enthusiasm. Intentionally or not, though, Twentysomething provides viewers with a less attractive, less acknowledged characteristic of their generation. Commentators are fond of pointing out the energy and social consciousness of Generation Y, but employment specialists have begun to note their inability to focus on jobs for longer than a few years, and their demand for input or control long before their experience might warrant it. They have high expectations of life, but how will their idealism cope with its realities?

Twentysomething

At a recent Sydney lecture, demographer Bernard Salt reflected on the prospects of Generation Y and suggested it was likely to become known as ‘the disappointed generation’. Nathan Lee (Life as a Mist), helpfully summarises his comments:

“The indulged children of rich baby boomer parents, Gen Y have been inculcated from an early age with the notion that they are special. The problem is at some point down the track they’ll be given a harsh dose of middle age reality, waking them up to the sad realisation that they’re actually just like everybody else – normal. Whether it happens when they get married, or pick up a mortgage, how will middle age live up to the prosperity Gen Y grew up with? It can’t, and it won’t.”

Twentysomething would be funnier if it wasn’t so uncomfortable to watch. Jess and Josh are involved in a slow-motion train wreck simply because they don’t realise just how much of their lives depend on others’ good graces. In that, they’re not alone. Human beings have a long history of mistaking God-given privileges – peace, prosperity, satisfying employment – as inalienable rights. And even these gifts fail to satisfy when the giver is left out of the picture.

Review by Mark Hadley