I know it's going to be hard to comprehend this fact, but women -- especially beautiful, young, vivacious women -- can be awfully distracting to men. What's more, there's this odd notion that older men are more easily manipulated and shaped than younger men by the whims of "hot little things". That's the premise behind the middling and unfunny French dramatic comedy The Girl from Monaco (La Fille de Monaco), from writer/director Anne Fontaine and Priceless (Hors du Prix) writer Benoit Graffin. What they failed to realize is that there's more to piecing this film together than finding the right vixen, reflected by the foolish logic behind its sequence of events and hollow, unsatisfying characters affected by the fiery focal girl.
First, the subject of the matter. Bertrand Beauvois (Fabrice Luchini) is a stringent yet affable defense lawyer who's suddenly come into the public eye due to a high-profile case. To protect him from assassinations or unhinged people looking to do anything else to him, he's been appointed a bodyguard named Christophe (Roschdy Zem). After they break the ice a bit with Bertrand getting Christophe to "occupy" an old flame, the lawyer stumbles across local Monaco TV weathergirl Audrey (Louise Bourgoin), a fiery and flighty socialite who has more "notches on her belt" than Bertrand could fathom. That doesn't stop him from being utterly infatuated and a bit of a following puppy dog to the hot little number, even with discouraging words from his bodyguard -- a previous victim to her whims.
That fact alone begins The Girl from Monaco's rapid topple downwards, as the complications and coincidences deepen into a little cheeky pit of disbelief. It's plagued with little plotholes throughout that cripple the dram-com structure, such as the bodyguard allowing Bertrand to associate with Audrey in the first place. Even if he didn't know who she was, would a trained bodyguard fresh on the job really let a new, reckless flame slip into the highly-publicized lawyer's life? Let's not even consider the happenstance fact that the bodyguard once had a fling with the girl; right before Bertrand and Audrey are about to be intimate for the first time, in Audrey's room with liquor bottles, the bodyguard has the inclination to search Audrey -- half-naked and underwear-free in a skimpy, skin-tight pink dress -- and to make a spin around the room for something, yet not to think once about the oldest trick in the book: poisoning a political figure.
You could argue that Christophe knew she wouldn't poison him or hurt him all you want, but one of the points behind Anne Fontaine's picture resides in Audrey's unpredictable, self-serving nature. Sure, she doesn't seem like the killing type, but that shouldn't stop him from exercising a great deal of caution. That's the biggest problem with The Girl from Monaco, one that gets the eyes rolling early on and doesn't stop until the end credits: there isn't even a flash of caution from the men in the film. It makes them all out to be complete fools, one a lawyer and the other supposedly a trained protector in the ways of deceit and espionage. Perhaps the fact that the situational comedy really isn't all that funny in the first place plays a hand in its uneven incredulity, ever distracting us from the sputtering, nonsensical drama. There might be a stream of send-up quality about the disarming nature of a beautiful woman and her brain-smashing effects on men, but it's hiding underneath a vain and silly shroud of ignorance.
Some might be inclined to think that the exclusion of Audrey Tautou from The Girl from Monaco might attribute to its problems, since Priceless and Coco Before Chanel are at least moderate successes, but that's simply not the case -- at least, on a character level. Louise Bourgoin nails every single aspect that Anne Fontaine asks of her as Audrey, building her into a capricious yet convincingly unabashed girl. As if it didn't seem obvious by the film's structure, she eventually begins to "use" Bertrand to further her career; her character doesn't see anything wrong with it, almost unaware that there's anything wrong due to her consume-and-dispose nature, and Bourgoin sells that resolve. Furthermore, the actress absolutely radiates with sundry sex appeal, certainly giving us a sexpot tantalizing enough for surface-level whims. She comes very close to selling the whole film, if it weren't for the stilted writing.
See, that's the problem. The Girl from Monaco tries its hand at harking to a comedic poignancy similar to that of Lost in Translation or even a dash of American Beauty, with a level of appeal to Bertrand as a subdued man awakening due the sex-fueled whims of a younger girl. However, her effects are more stupefying and entrancing than awakening, essentially transforming every male entity around her into a brainless shell of a person that can't even discern the most rudimentary of decisions. Should a prominent, aging lawyer in the public eye really go out and party with a large group of drug-slinging, loud-mouthed twenty-somethings, especially as a panting puppy dog to a lustful harpy with ties to the media? That's the vast, apparently unquestionable draw of Audrey in The Girl from Monaco, and everything that results -- including a conclusion that's, for lack of better words, bird-brained -- leans on that level of inattentive surrender. Satirical or not, it's just not smart, attentive filmmaking.
Video and Audio:
Magnolia Pictures offers up The Girl from Monaco in a mediocre 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, one that somehow makes the lush locations in the film merely serviceable. Most glaring of its issues is a thickly-lathered layer of edge halos, bright white lines around anything dark in the baking sunlight. Aside from that, everything here looks serviceably satisfactory, rendering an acceptable level of depth and tolerable -- if heavy -- level of grain that pushes beyond film grain. It's a little on the dark side, but plenty of bright colors and skin tones are pleasing, and several of the shots that are, erm, desirable for this particular picture don't disappoint.
Audio isn't too shabby, coming with its original French language track that puts emphasis on dialogue. In fact, that's really the only thing memorable from the entire track -- which, in turn, makes it pretty darn unmemorable. Splashes of water on the coast and surround effects at play in the courtroom are sparse and uninteresting, but support the material well enough. The English subtitles seem like they might be a little off, translated for more literal purposes (such as "merci" transforming into "I can"), but there's no grammatical errors or anything that prevent processing of the material. Subs are also available in Spanish, while a 2.0 track can also be found on the disc.
Aside from a few Trailers from other Magnolia Pictures productions, we've got a Sequence 14: The Making of The Girl from Monaco (18:02, 4x3) that covers one of the earlier scenes from the film -- one where Bertrand turns away an earlier lover to Christophe.
The Girl from Monaco has potential stirring in its loins, including a nicely-selected vixen in the talented Louise Bourgoin, but its blend of face-flat humor and unconvincing drama leave much to be desired. What's most disappointing with this is the knowledge that both Anne Fontaine and Benoit Graffin -- writer of the highly-pleasing Audrey Tautou vehicle Priceless -- could've made much more out of this piddling, not-so-emphatic satire. Is it worth a rental just to see Louise Bourgoin's manipulative ways and saucy shimmies? That's a tough question, but ultimately one that falls under Skippable territory. She's the right actress for the right part, and does it great, but she simply doesn't fit into the story's anemic context.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site