The Girl From Monaco
Directed by Anne Fontaine. Starring Fabrice Luchini, Roschdy Zem, Louise Bourgoin, Stéphane Audran, Gilles Cohen, Alexandre Steiger. (2008, R, 95 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., July 10, 2009
It's impossible to say with any assurance whether The Girl From Monaco is incredibly subtle or simply confused about what it wants to be. Equal parts French sex farce, Mai-Decembre romance, middle-aged white male fantasy, and wannabe Hitchcockian intrigue, Fontaine's film can be a chore to sit through, but not for any of the obvious reasons. It just takes its own gorgeous time unfolding in front of the sun-spattered scenery of the title's tiny principality, and while the views are often breathtaking, they're not enough to make the film anything more than the cinematic hors d'oeuvre that it is. By the time the third act's 180-degree plot bomb finally blows up in everybody's face, you feel as though you've been watching a schizophrenic travelogue directed not by Hitch but by Seventies-era De Palma (and a lesser one at that). Parisian Bertrand Beauvois (Luchini) arrives in Monaco as the defense attorney for the aged Edith Lassalle (Audran), who has been accused of killing her far younger lover. Assigned a bodyguard in the granite-faced and emotionally opaque person of Christophe (Zem), Bertrand quickly finds himself the object of desire of local weather personality Audrey (Bourgoin), a sexy twentysomething who apparently knows a good career stepladder when she sees one. She also knows (in the biblical sense) Christophe and, by implication, much of the male population of Monaco. The steam percolating between Bertrand and Audrey (and Christophe as well; this is, after all, a très moderne French kiss) is meant to be heady and erotic – revelatory, even – but it subsides nearly as quickly as it arrives, leaving you wanting something more than the simple and obvious tenets of the long-ago clichéd bedroom comedy. Fontaine gives it to you, too, but it's too little too late, and, like its protagonist, you end up with plenty to think about, puzzle over, and forget.