Magnolia Pictures // 2008 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // December 15th, 2009
"So it's simple for you: you see a girl, you like her, you sleep with
her. That's normal?"
"Isn't that the idea?"
The Hollywood romantic comedy is a tired genre. The bar is now set so low that any romcom that elicits a few chuckles is considered above average. But even those mildly amusing romantic comedies are still so reliant on formulas that you can usually guess the entire plot within the first ten minutes. Thankfully, French writer/director Anne Fontaine has breathed new life into the genre, with a romantic comedy that is dark, funny, and kinky. It might not be great for a first date, but it's sexy and thrilling enough to make your blood run a little faster.
The Girl From Monaco is the story of Bertrand (Fabrice Luchini), an intelligent, respected French lawyer who proves that no matter how smart you are, love can make you look pretty stupid. Bertrand travels to Monaco to defend a woman accused of murdering a member of the Russian mafia. Due to threats, Bertrand receives a bodyguard, Christophe (Roschdy Zem), a tough, but wise, local. The two men quickly grow close, though their new friendship is strained when Bertrand meets Audrey (Louise Bourgoin), a beautiful young TV weathergirl. Audrey might be flighty and self-centered, but after a night of passionate lovemaking, Bertrand thinks he's in love. Christophe, who had a previous fling with Audrey (Monaco is a small country), tries to talk his new client out of making any commitments. But as Percy Sledge will tell you, when a man loves a woman, she can do no wrong.
The movie's slightly odd concoction of romance, comedy, and thriller generally meld well. Initially, we are -- like Bertrand -- besotted with the alluring Audrey, who is played with a perfect mixture of aloofness and fiendishness by the striking Bourgoin. Most every man has fallen hard for a woman based on appearance, and consciously ignored the warning signs. Though there is a dark undercurrent throughout the movie, The Girl From Monaco derives big laughs from just how stupid men -- even a world-class lawyer -- can be. As Homer Simpson would say, it's funny because it's true.
Fountaine (who co-wrote the screenplay with Benoît Graffin) has not only masterfully mixed different genres, but also created a bright, vibrant, altogether inviting movie. The beautiful coasts mixed with the charm of a small, weathered village not only make The Girl From Monaco a marvel to look at, but helps seduce the viewer just as Audrey seduces Bertrand. In addition to the exteriors, Fountaine has done a commendable job with set design, creating a memorable bedroom for Audrey and several realistic-looking European clubs.
Yet, as delightful as the film is, it does take a few wrong turns. The murder trial in which Bertrand takes part almost seems from another movie, and certainly is not as compelling as his romance with Audrey, or even his friendship with Christophe. Compounding this problem is that no matter how discombobulated Bertrand gets, his performance in the courtroom doesn't seem to suffer, save for a raspy voice one day. Additionally, there are some dramatic twists near the conclusion of the film that seem both inconsistent with the tone and prior characterization.
Ultimately, this movie is like a new, unstable romantic relationship: there's laughter and lust, a little bit of fear, and it doesn't end well -- but you still look back and appreciate the experience. Compared to the couple of chuckles I've come to expect from American romantic comedies, I'll take it.
The picture on the DVD is not nearly as sharp or bright as could be hoped, especially considering how beautiful the scenery is. The interiors are especially troublesome, though, with the nighttime scenes appearing murky and lacking sharp definition. The sound is the much better feature, especially in the clubbing scenes, where the rear speakers get a good workout of bass and lively partygoers.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R