Not as heady as Fontaine's previous efforts but a frothy comedy nonetheless

The Girl from Monaco

on July 02, 2009 by Ed Scheid

The Girl from Monaco causes unexpected complications for a sophisticated lawyer and the bodyguard who has been hired to protect him. In these roles, Fabrice Luchini and Roschdy Zem make an accomplished acting team. Though not up to some of director/co-writer Anne Fontaine's earlier efforts, the sunny Mediterranean location combined with some dark behavior should attract average arthouse audiences in urban areas.

Bertrand (Luchini) is a successful lawyer who makes sure he remains in command of his personal relationships as he is of his performances in the courtroom. He arrives in Monaco to defend Édith (Stéphane Audran from many Chabrol films) for the murder of a man with whom she was involved. Édith remains impassive as Bertrand prepares her defense. Because the case has connections to the Russian Mafia, a bodyguard has been employed to protect Bertrand. Christophe (Zem), the bodyguard, silently observes everything around Bertrand, trying to look out for any problems. Bertrand even uses Christophe's services to end a relationship, as Bertrand wants to coolly avoid any romantic complications.

Audrey (Louise Bourgoin) is a weather girl on Monaco television who puts on elaborate on-camera performances as she delivers the weather in flashy costumes. Bertrand becomes enamored with the attractive younger woman, a situation complicated by her previous relationship with Christophe. The uninhibited Audrey is very different from the women with whom Bertrand has been involved. Having known Audrey, Christophe mistrusts her. Audrey tenaciously increases her hold on Bertrand, seeing in him a way to advance from delivering the weather to a comfortable life in Paris.

Fontaine said that the ornate architecture and physical location give Monaco an artificial kitsch out of Walt Disney. She feels this background of glossy movie romances like To Catch a Thief provides a false sense of security, the sort that could inspire someone like Bertrand to lose his critical faculties. Under Fontaine, the fairy tale setting turns sinister. As Bertrand continues the relationship with Audrey, he begins to lose the control he has always maintained in both his personal and professional life. He is out of his comfort zone.

Audrey brings a developing tension and unwelcome unpredictability to Bertrand. Like Audrey, Bourgoin started her career as a weather girl on the leading cable network Canal +. She is also the hostess of a cable program on the same network. Her character has a flamboyance that matches her garish surroundings, which includes a shrine to her favorite celebrity.

Fontaine makes good use of the contrasting personalities of Luchini's intellectual and Zem's physical and taciturn bodyguard. Bertrand was written for Luchini who skillfully shows the changes in his character as his life becomes destabilized. The continually evolving bond between Bertrand and Christophe is the most intriguing part of this film, though this visit to Monaco lacks the psychological intensity of Fontaine's Dry Cleaning and Nathalie.

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Cast: Fabrice Luchini, Roschdy Zem, Louise Bourgoin, Stéphane Audran and Jeanne Balibar
Director: Anne Fontaine
Screenwriters: Anne Fontaine and Benoît Graffin
Producers: Bruno Pesery and Philippe Carcassonne
Genre: Drama; French-language, subtitled
Running Time: 95 min
Release Date: July 3 ltd.

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