Meet Monica Velour (US - BD RA)
Jonathan reluctantly watches this independent film starring Kim Cattrall...
Awkward teenager Tobe (Dustin Ingram) sets off on a road trip to meet Monica Velour (Kim Cattrall), his favorite ‘80s porn star, at a rare live appearance hundreds of miles away. Instead of the glamorous sexpot portrayed on film, he finds a 49-year-old single mom living in a trailer in rural Indiana, performing at seedy strip clubs to make ends meet. A starry-eyed Tobe, still captivated by his crush, befriends Monica, further complicating her difficult life. (From the Anchor Bay synopsis)
I’ll be honest and admit that I went into Meet Monica Velour ready to dislike it. The critical response has been on the low side, aside from praise for Kim Cattrall’s performance. I’m also about as far from a Sex and the City fan as you can get. Plus the idea of a movie about a Napoleon Dynamite-like character going to visit a retired porn star just sounds ripe with awkward and unfunny material. My suspicions were met for the most part. Maybe I’m not the target demographic for this quirky dramedy, but the humour fell completely flat for me. It often feels like writer/director Ketih Bearden has mistaken irreverence for awkward sexual humour. They’re not the same thing. Seeing as this is a comedy about a retired porn star, there are a lot of retro porn spoofs played for laughs. Unlike Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, which pulled this sort of thing off with hilarious sincerity, there’s a transparency and lack of subtlety to these spoofs that just makes them completely unfunny. The character of Tobe is similar to Napoleon Dynamite, both in mannerisms and lack of social competence. It’s not milked to the same level of absurdity as the Jared Hess film, but this type of character has already been too exhausted in recent comedies to be any fun.
Now that I’m done griping about the lack of effective humour in the film, I do have some nice things to say about it. While I’m not a fan of Bearden’s writing, he shows some real talent with a camera here as a first time director. It’s a good looking movie, with great uses of colour and pleasing shot compositions. And while the laughs were non-existent for me, the movie worked a lot better than I imagined it would on a dramatic level. Bearden handles the characters with a tenderness and vulnerability that makes them feel very human, and keeps them from falling into the trap of being caricatures. I did not expect to feel as involved as I did with the characters, and I found myself genuinely wishing the best for them. This is in no small part due to the solid leading performances. Cattrall is great in the role. There is a pain and disappointment to her character that her expressions act as a vivid window into. While I didn’t enjoy the forced quirkiness of Dustin Ingram’s character Tobe, he performs it well and shows real dramatic talent when a scene calls for it. He makes Tobe’s choked up emotions and naivety very believable. Brian Dennehy is enjoyable as Tobe’s father, but I really didn’t need to see him without pants on. Keith David, in an inspired casting choice, plays the wise sage character that all of these movies have, helping the protagonist get his head on straight. The cast elevates the material and makes it more watchable, but this still isn’t a movie I see myself revisiting.
Taking up approximately 22GB of space on a BD25, this 1080p transfer from Anchor Bay is really nice looking. Colours are strong and accurate, if sometimes a bit oversaturated for stylistic purposes. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a low budget independent film shot on 35mm instead of digital. Detail is sharp and there is a very consistent and fine layer of grain throughout. You can see the wearing paint on the Weenie Wiz truck, and the sunlit warmth of many shots looks very natural and appealing. The neon colours lighting the nightclub Monica Velour performs at look great without ever causing banding or other compression artefacts that prevail in many film’s darker scenes. Overall this is a very satisfying video transfer, and I can’t imagine any fan complaining about the job Anchor Bay has done with it.
This is a modest film shot on a small budget, so there are no seat rumbling action sequences to be found, but this Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track brings a surprising level of sound detail to the movie. Nearly every outdoor scene is filled with ambient noise filling the extra sound channels, be it a distant barking dog, sprinklers, cars passing, or just the chirping of birds. It’s surprisingly immersive. There’s also some good use of directionality when off-screen characters are talking. When characters share the frame, dialogue is kept front and center and the volume levels are perfectly accurate. I never had to adjust the volume to get a better idea of what somebody was saying. The only activity the LFE channel really gets is during a fireworks scene, or the muffled music of a club, but no other scenes really call for it. The soundtrack is loud and clear without ever obscuring the sound in the film. It’s a very minor gripe, but the instruments seem to share sound channels; never taking much advantage of the surround setup.
I wasn’t expecting many extras, seeing as there isn’t much space left on this BD-25 after you put a movie on it. Aside from the theatrical trailer, there is a commentary track with writer/director Keith Bearden and actress Kim Cattrall, as well as four deleted scenes.
The audio commentary with writer/director Keith Bearden and actress Kim Cattrall is more or less what you’d expect. They talk about the origin of scenes, how they changed over the production of the movie (which was written in 2004), and Kim Cattrall spends a lot of time talking about what things in the movie she liked. She seems very proud of it. I was expecting her to talk about how awkward and uncomfortable the nightclub routine may have been, but instead she talks enthusiastically about how she prepared for the routine and what inspired some of the moves. They also laugh at Dustin Ingram’s awkward character mannerisms a lot. Cattrall fans will probably find this worthwhile.
Deleted Scenes (07:53, SD): There are four of them in total. The first involves more talking scenes between Tobe and Monica. There’s another unfunny porn spoof, and some scenes with Tobe daydreaming about a younger Monica Velour. There’s also more footage of Tobe and his father.
I didn’t enjoy myself much watching Meet Monica Velour, but the flawed script and predictable plot are elevated by strong performances from Dustin Ingram and Kim Cattrall. The films of Alexander Payne are far more potent examples raunchy humour mixed with sentiment, and they also feature razor sharp satire. If you want to see a good film about an endearing friendship with a big age gap, look to Harold and Maude. Anchor Bay does a terrific job in the audio and video department, so fans will have that to look forward to, but there isn’t much in the way of special features.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 16th August 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Keith Bearden and Actress Kim Cattrall, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Keith Bearden
Cast: Kim Cattrall, Dutin Ingram, Brian Dennehy
Genre: Comedy, Drama and Romance
Length: 97 minutes
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