Making the Grades
Monte Carlo is the classic prince and the pauper plot where some lucky soul (in this case a recent high school graduate) gets to experience the lavish life of the rich and famous. It’s a well worn and predictable storyline but who hasn’t daydreamed about exchanging his or her mundane existence for the royal treatment in some exotic location.
Working as a waitress in a small Texas town, Grace Bennett (Selena Gomez) has saved all her tips for a trip to Paris with her coworker Emma (Katie Cassidy), a pretty blonde with big aspirations who dropped out of high school to model for the cover of a coupon circular. At the very last minute, Grace’s mother and stepfather (Andie MacDowell, Brett Cullen) announce they are sending her uptight older stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester) along as a chaperone. It’s a low blow to both girls who aren’t at all interested in forming a sibling relationship.
Despite Grace’s anticipation, the trip proves disastrous—especially after the tour bus leaves the girls behind at the Eiffel Tower. But while trudging back in the rain to their run down lodgings, Grace is mistaken for the socialite Cordelia Winthrop Scott, a snobbish but fabulously wealthy young heiress who has tarnished her reputation with some unbecoming behaviors. Whisked up in the moment, Grace and her friends play along, taking advantage of a free night in a luxurious suite before boarding a private jet bound for Monte Carlo. Once there, the game is on as the trio attempts to keep up the charade while attending functions specifically orchestrated for Cordelia.
Unfortunately, their means of getting to Monte Carlo—namely lying—are hardly commendable despite the good impression the girls make on the stuffy upper crust socialites. It seems though, that if anyone can do damage control for the churlish Cordelia, it would be the likeable Grace who quickly endears herself to Theo (Pierre Boulanger), the son of the influential philanthropist (Christophe Malavoy). To lessen the seriousness of the girls’ falsehoods, the filmmakers go all out to justify the travelers’ actions by making Cordelia so nasty no one would think of reproving these nice Texas girls from taking advantage of her. Even the Monaco police refuse to lay charges of identity theft or unlawful confinement.
On the positive side, Grace, Meg and Emma learn many of the life lessons any good adventure should provide, like an appreciation for home and one another. As well, each of the girls discovers some important things about herself and fortunately without a lot of unsuitable content for younger viewers.
Though Monte Carlo still suggests that life is better in a suite at the Hotel de Paris than it is in a second-rate room on the shadier side of town, it eventually acknowledges that living a lie isn’t worth it, no matter how nice the accommodations are.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Monte Carlo.
This movie is based on the novel Headhunters by Jules Bass.
What are the challenges of living in the shadow of a highly successful parent? Why does Theo feel like he is not making any contributions?
How does Prince Domenico (Giulio Berruti) refer to the serving staff at his dinner on the yatch? How does that affect Emma’s feelings about him? What does she do as a result of his comment? What does this film say about different classes of people?
Is there a difference between stealing and seizing an opportunity? How does the film justify the girls’ lies? Should there be some kind of punishment for their actions? What would be appropriate?