Meet Monica Velour
dir-scr Keith Bearden
prd Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz
with Dustin Ingram, Kim Cattrall, Brian Dennehy, Keith David, Jee Young Han, Daniel Yelsky, Sam McMurray, Jamie Tisdale, Elizabeth Wright Shapiro, Gracie Rose, Henry Yuk, Tony Cox
release US 8.Apr.11, UK 22.Jul.11
10/US 1h38

Meet Monica Velour
A fanboy's dream: Ingram and Cattrall

dennehy david cox

A terrific dive

Kim Cattrall >>

edinburgh film fest
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Meet Monica Velour There's a scruffy, honest charm to this film that keeps us involved, even though the rough edges are ultimately worn down by what seems like an over-developed script. But a strong central performance wins us over.

Tobe (Ingram) is a painfully gawky teen in Washington State obsessed with 1970s pornstar Monica Velour (Tisdale). He collects her pun-titled, low-budget videos and obsesses over her like average teens obsess over PlayStations. When he graduates from high school, his grandfather (Dennehy) gives him a hotdog van. He decides to sell it, but the only offer comes from an artist (David) in Indiana. Since Monica (now Cattrall) is working in a nearby strip club, he decides to hit the road. And he discovers that she's more complicated than he expected.

This is one of those films in which a teen's life is transformed by an encounter with a middle-aged woman, and vice versa. Ingram plays Tobe as a lanky, stumbling geek who's so single-minded and clueless that he can't help but remind us of Napoleon Dynamite. And his contrived oblivion makes him a difficult to love. By contrast, Cattrall is startlingly raw, looking both beautiful and life-worn as a 49-year-old has-been. She's a real mess, and Cattrall beautifully brings out her complexity.

Writer-director Bearden has a great time referencing American kitsch art, along with 30s music and 70s films. Monica's amateurish porn movies range from Frankenbooty to a hilarious Star Wars rip-off. To complete the gag, Tobe's van is called the Weenie Wiz. And the film's colourful visual style covers up some awkward direction and editing. Less authentic is the caginess about sex in a movie about a sex worker.

As it continues, the plot abandons the dishevelled quality of the enjoyable first act, clanking the gears as the script manoeuvres into a standard arc with a far too tidy ending, complete with Important Life Lessons. It's as if Bearden lost the nerve to go for something loose and honest, and instead felt the need to wring a more commercial conclusion from his story. It may be satisfying, but it rings strangely false. And all we're left with is the revelation of Cattrall's disarmingly sincere performance.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, drugs 20.May.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall