The Girl from Monaco (La Fille de Monaco)
- Directed by Anne Fontaine
- Written by Anne Fontaine and Benoît Graffin
- with Jacques Fieschi
- Starring Fabrice Luchini, Roschdy Zem and Louise Bourgoin
- Classification: 14A
The Girl from Monaco is a tease.
For an hour (roughly the time it takes to walk the width of the tiny coastal city-state) we are seduced by a breezy French romantic comedy. But dark clouds gather in the third act.
The film opens with successful Parisian attorney Bertrand (Fabrice Luchini) engaged in pre-boudoir banter with a well-heeled local. But she departs upon learning the tall dark stranger tailing them is a bodyguard hired by the son of Bertrand's client, a wealthy woman accused of murdering her young Russian lover. The case, we understand, is a local cause célèbre.
While possible trouble from Russian gangsters is a red herring - and not very effective - it means Christophe (Roschdy Zem), the bodyguard, must remain close to "secure the perimeter." Bertrand's irritation at this arrangement, which includes Christophe staying in the adjoining hotel room, spurs the film's early humour.
And the set-up comes in handy when Bertrand's lover unexpectedly arrives from Paris. There is much farcical opening and closing of doors as Bertrand, a committed bachelor for whom sex is a complication, begs Christophe to get rid of her. He does - by making love to the lady himself. A friendship evolves between the two men, Christophe looking out for Bertrand's physical and emotional safety. The latter proves more difficult.
Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Monaco first appears on Bertrand's hotel TV. And, Monaco being the world's most densely populated sovereign country, the attorney is soon rubbing up against the ditsy, sexually aggressive Audrey (Louise Bourgoin), a weather girl with a scooter and an obsession with Princess Di.
Christophe warns that Audrey is trouble, but it's no use. Scenes of budding romance are juxtaposed with short courtroom scenes in which Bertrand uses information he has gleaned through adventures in Monaco's nightclubs. Of course the romance is doomed. When Bertrand realizes Audrey has been using him, the skies turn black.
Writer-director Anne Fontaine's abrupt shift in tone relies on us believing in the bond between the two men. Zem's finely tuned performance delivers a fully realized character, but Luchini keeps his doughy face in one expression.
Accepting the final twist of The Girl From Monaco depends on whether you're in the mood.
Special to The Globe and Mail