Theatrical Review: MONTE CARLO
While romantic comedies can be tedious in their escapist nature and tend to lean toward the frivolous rather than the realistic, there are some that are just too sweet to hate. I can say until I’m blue in the face that the rom-com genre needs to die a sad, lonely death, but even the most eye-roll inducing films have redeeming qualities (sometimes that quality is that the credits rolled). And just like every exception to the rule, rom-coms can be more than just a vehicle to convince us Katherine Heigl is likable (she is not, for the record).
This week’s newest rom-com takes an innocent approach to love and the importance of well-rounded relationships with more than just the handsome rich boy. MONTE CARLO, Thomas Bezucha’s adaptation of the young adult Headhunters series by Jules Bass, is a sweet and endearing story of evolving friendships and mistaken identities. Recent high school graduate and optimistic dreamer Grace (Selena Gomez) is a small-town Texan. She and her best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy), the trouble-making older co-waitress from the town’s popular diner, have saved for over four years to travel to Europe for two weeks in the days after Grace’s graduation. All goes according to plan, until Grace’s mother and step-father insist her uptight step-sister Meg (Leighton Meester) travel abroad with them. Begrudgingly, the three girls wind up in Paris for what is supposed to be a trip of complete cultural immersion, but turns out to take them on more of an adventure than they ever imagined.
In an actually believable and clever happenstance, Grace is mistaken for a snooty heiress and is whisked away from Paris to Monaco with her two bickering friends in tow. Now, this is starting to seem almost cheesy and hard to distinguish from any of the other cutesy teen-targeted romantic comedies, but the chemistry and charm of the three main characters is hard to deny. While each of the girls are out and about in Monaco falling in love, or recognizing the love they left back home, they develop a close connection as young women. Their shared bonding is as engaging as those traveling pants films, and their stories appeal to more than just 14 year old girls. While the character arcs are wrapped up in neat little bows, their individual journeys are delightful, focused, and character-appropriate. Each girl deserves a happily ever after, and a good rom-com should always deliver those goods.
MONTE CARLO is far from perfect, but for 90 minutes the film provides exactly what a genre fan desires - a long embrace of warm fuzzies and the reminder that even the most jaded person can find love when they stop looking for happiness with someone else and just embrace their own charms.