In Defense of the Rom-Com: Why I Don’t Think “Monte Carlo” Sucks

I’ve admitted previously that my tastes don’t always follow the general consensus, and while this summer the populace as a whole has decided that giant robots from another planet that just happen to look like decidedly earthbound vehicles whilst also contributing to a lot of explosions, things falling off trucks and crushing stuff, etc., etc., are a great thing (the almighty box-office dollar has spoken), I have a tendency to fall asleep during action flicks.  There are rare exceptions to the rule– Tank Girl and the first two Terminator movies kicked serious ass, as well as anything under the Star Trek banner and the original Star Wars trilogy, plus some odds and ends like the Tron and Iron Man franchises– but I can’t count the action movies of which I haven’t seen the ending because I was sawing logs.  When the fists/bullets start flying/things start blowing up, my brain just shuts down and the rest of me follows suit.  Attractive stars are meaningless here and don’t always serve to keep my attention focused; the combination of  Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze has not kept me awake during the MANY times I have tried to watch Point Break.  I guess this is some failing in my mental wiring.  I’m not a total chick-flick chick, nor am I an art-house snob, but sometimes the tastes of the cinema-going public just don’t mesh with mine.  Which brings us to the film I saw today, a bit of fluff called Monte Carlo, which for all of its contrivances and tried-and-true elements served the purpose of entertaining me and leaving the theater happy.

Needless to say, this was not a packed house, not with exploding robots down the hall, and Mr. Fluffy and my stepson were the only males in the theater.  I’ve also seen a good deal of hate for this movie online, at Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB and elsewhere, but in this case I find the vitriol a little misplaced.  I got exactly what I expected, which was some decent laughs, a lot of romance, beautiful views of European beaches and cityscapes,  and a happy ending.  Granted, it is NOT epic by any stretch of the imagination, but that is its draw for me– it is a smaller sort of film, one which doesn’t need to rely on FX to pad a thin story.  The story here is thin, too, but it doesn’t pretend to be otherwise.  This little movie, short and sweet, is ALL story, by which I mean it never drags, there are no extraneous scenes, and the dialogue drives the tale rather than bogging it down in exposition.  Sure, the story itself is both far-fetched and familiar, with Selena Gomez’s Grace being mistaken for a snotty British heiress and getting swept into said heiress’s decadent lifestyle, with her best friend and her stepsister hitching along for the ride with varying degrees of willingness, but a good story is all about the “What-if?”  It’s pure fairy tale, updated.  There are hints of “Cinderella”, “The Prince and the Pauper”, “Roman Holiday” and even Oz, with Katie Cassidy’s Emma discovering “there’s no place like home”.  I liked all the main characters, despite Gomez’s wandering British accent even when portraying Grace’s heiress doppelganger, Cordelia (who had thankfully little screen time), and all the romantic interests were easy on the eyes.  Especially Cory Monteith– what’s not to love?  (Well, besides the Texas accent– was he trying to channel Hank Hill?  None of the other “native Texans” in the movie sounded like that.  Actually, the accents were my only problem with the film in general.)

In short, I have little bad to say about the movie, or rom-coms as a genre.  There is quite enough violence in the REAL world without assaulting me with it nonstop in the name of “entertainment.”  There are certain movies for which it works– Quentin Tarentino’s oeuvre comes to mind– but for me the best movies are the ones with good storytelling and well-realized characters, and this mere slip of a film has both.  If the territory seems familiar, well, that’s because it IS– it’s the cinematic equivalent of a big bowl of mac and cheese.  And some of us LOVE our cheese.  The SeriouslyFluffy Final Grade: B

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