Saturday, April 07, 2012

Meet Monica Velour (2010) ***½

If Napoleon Dynamite had a skinnier, dorkier brother, it would be “Meet Monica Velour“’s Tobe (Dustin Ingram.) This guy is such a geek, he practically bites the heads off chickens. Tobe, like most geeks, lives inside his own head, where he thinks about 1930’s music, 1950’s cars, and 1970’s porno flicks. In particular, he is obsessed with a classic-porn actress named Monica Velour. After high school graduation, Tobe has a choice: stay home and finally make a move on the chubby Asian girl who obviously likes him, or go on a road trip to see his idol, Monica Velour, at an Indiana strip club. He chooses the road trip.

Monica (Kim Cattrall) is an attractive, 49-year-old woman, but clearly too old to be in the sex trade. Having saved nothing but a taste for drugs and alcohol from her time as a porn starlet, Monica is still hustling what she has, desperately trying to scrape together money for a lawyer to help her win custody of her daughter. The pathos of her situation doesn’t dim her glamour in Tobe’s eyes, however, and she becomes an essential part of his coming-of-age.

Kim Cattrall should have gotten an Oscar nomination for this role. You remember how impressive Blake Lively was as the drugged-up skank in “The Town”? Kim Cattrall is even better as an aging porn starlet. She gives voice to a woman who has spent her life feeding the fantasies of others and wants some recognition of her own humanity.

I get the impression this film was something of a passion project for Cattrall, who must have been sorely disappointed at its box office failure. As much as I enjoyed the movie, I can see that it just wasn’t made for a mass audience. Dustin Igram plays Tobe with such awkwardness that he is hard to identify with, and his character doesn’t have the kind of goofy kink or catchphrases that made Napoleon Dynamite a star. As good as Cattrall is, her performance runs into a conundrum. Among mass audiences, those who will be interested in a movie about a porn star may not be so interested in a movie about what it’s like for a beautiful woman to get old. That’s a shame, because while this film isn’t nearly as sexy as the premise would suggest, it has surprising depth.

3.5 stars

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