20th Century Fox’s ‘Monte Carlo’ finds its inner beauty and self with grace

Grace Bennett (Selena Gomez) just graduated high school and is now off to her dream city Paris with her best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy) and – by force – her stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester). The visit in Paris – from the less than stellar hotel to the terrible tour lady – goes quickly awry, but the three girls find themselves discovering and enjoying Monte Carlo by impersonating the cruel, selfish English socialite Cordelia Winthrop Scott (also portrayed by Gomez) for an entire week. From there, the girls find an unexpected luxurious lifestyle, true happiness, new potential loves, sisterly bonds, and – most importantly – their inner self. Although the film has the potential to be a great teenage movie, the plot falls into mediocrity halfway into the film with random clichés and awkward one liners. However, the scenery and likable characters are enough to save the movie from being plain bad – making it a pleasure to watch and just plain cute.

The film quickly jumps from location to location … to location. At times, the jumps become hard to follow as the only thing that pops up onto the screen (other than the background of the city we’re in) is the name of the city we’re in. There’s no type of date or time that comes up, thus making it hard to figure out exactly how long the girls are in the city. Although it is suggested by Meg’s dad at the beginning of the film that they are only staying for a week, you’ll find it a bit far-fetched that the girls did all they did in one full week (not saying it’s not possible).

As well, the story wants so deeply to remind the audience the point as to why Grace decided to go to Paris in the first place: to find out who she truly is and what she wants in life. The point is emphasized so much that after a while, you just want to throw your popcorn at the screen when Grace (or any of the girls) is found in any type of coming-of-age funk. But setting aside the over-bearing “point of the trip”, each character provides a different personal struggle that any growing adolescent girl (or growing adult) can relate with. Thus, it makes the movie a good “night out with the girls” choice and also a great watch for any aged girl (and I’m including my post-college grad girls) who is struggling with something unfamiliar (i.e.: new stepsister, new family, etc.). However, like the quick location jumps, the 109 minute film presents beginning, plot, and end in a time crunch – making the story feel a little too unrealistic. How so, you ask? We start off the first few minutes at Grace’s graduation. Afterwards, we head to Paris. Eventually, we make it Monte Carlo. Add at least 4-5 situations for the girls here. Now fast forward to the end, where the girls figure everything out for themselves. The end. Perhaps this is the process as to how we learn to grow and discover who we are. But all in one week’s vacation we know where we’re going in life and who we want to be? For that reason, it made the film feel rushed.

Though the movie seems like a typical cliché chick flick, what makes it likable are the actors/actresses who put on a good performance in their role. Each actor/actress did their role justice and built a personable character that felt real and genuine. On the contrary, although leading lady Gomez was convincing playing both Grace and Cordelia, there are moments where – if you’re familiar with Selena’s other work [i.e.: “Wizards of Waverly Place”, Another Cinderella Story, Ramona and Beezus, etc.] – you’ll feel as if you’re watching the exact same character she has played from other movies and shows. Character Grace Bennett is as vulnerable and rather selfless as character Mary Santiago in Another Cinderella Story while other character Cordelia Winthrop Scott is as witty and cynical as character Alex Russo in “Wizards of Waverly Place”. With that being said, it just makes me wonder if Gomez has the capability to play a different kind of role effectively other than the tame, selfless child or the sly, wild child.

All in all, Monte Carlo is one of those fresh, modest movies that hasn’t been seen in theaters for a long while. It’s an appropriate, fun, exhilarating, and never-ending film that will inspire the younger crowd to reach for their potential and will remind all generations to have faith and never lose hope in not only life but herself.

This film runs 109 minutes long and is Rated PG.

Grade: B-


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