Meet Monica Velour (2010)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age  |   Release Date - Apr 8, 2011 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Jack Rodgers

Keith Bearden, a former film critic and director of short movies, makes his feature-length debut with Meet Monica Velour, the seriocomic story of a geek who becomes involved with the over-the-hill porn star he's obsessed with. Unfortunately, despite some occasional flashes of insight, Bearden is mostly unable to use the longer running time to say anything meaningful about sexuality or flesh out his characters. The film is so formulaic that it would almost be easier to count the moments that don't feel stolen from other indie dramedies or coming-of-age movies. And worst of all, it also has the least appealing protagonist of any film in recent memory.

Granted, if said protagonist is a teenager who doesn't just lust after an aging porn star, but has actually convinced himself that he's in love with her, it is pretty much inevitable that he's going to be portrayed as an asocial loser. However, Tobe Hulbert (Dustin Ingram) acts like his whole personality is nothing but an assemblage of Indieland quirks: he listens to pop songs from the 1930s, wears bow ties, and drives around in a van with a giant sculpture of a hot dog bolted on top. And he has the voice of a Muppet to boot.

As the film opens, Tobe is just about to graduate from high school and is looking at some pretty dismal prospects. He's got no job to speak of, no friends other than a 12-year-old kid, and even his father thinks he's pathetic. After an attempt to declare his feelings for a classmate (Han Jee Young) goes disastrously wrong and he's accused of being a Peeping Tom, Tobe decides it might be a good time to take a road trip to Indiana, where a kooky collector (Keith David) has offered to buy his van. Even better, he learns that a nearby strip club will be hosting an appearance by his favorite porn star, Monica Velour (Kim Cattrall), who has disappeared from the public eye since her heyday in the 1980s.

After Tobe attempts to defend Monica's honor from a bunch of crude frat boys and is promptly beaten for his troubles, he winds up at her home and becomes her temporary houseguest. Despite their differences, the two desperately need each other -- Tobe slowly inspires Monica to get her life together and fight for custody of her daughter, while Monica gives Tobe his first sexual experience and sets him on the path to becoming (marginally) less geeky and annoying.

Cattrall's performance as the title character is easily the best thing in the movie; thanks to her, Monica is a fully realized human being who's disappointed at where her life has ended up but isn't in the least bit ashamed of her past. This emerges most clearly in a touching scene early on when Tobe shows her a scrapbook full of old nude photos and memorabilia of her, and Cattrall gazes at it with a look of nostalgia, surprise, and sad resignation. The movie only really sparks when the script (also written by Bearden) gives her material along these lines, which plays up the tension between her porn career and the angel that Tobe imagines her to be. When he tries to convince her that starring in a new adult movie will derail her attempts to get her life in order, Monica responds with a scathing speech about how men fall for sex kittens and then want to turn them into housewives when they feel threatened. Bearden would have been better off if he had chosen to really explore the ambiguity in their relationship, and the way the men in Monica's life try to force her into a domesticated role that she's clearly not interested in.

Instead, Bearden is just going through a checklist of plot points until Tobe and Monica have both rehabilitated themselves and moved on. The other actors are given little to do except drift into the story when they're needed -- David is especially wasted as a font of wisdom for Tobe's romantic hang-ups -- which leaves Meet Monica Velour as little more than a romantic comedy with few laughs and a love story that isn't terribly convincing.