Synopsis: In this irreverent comedy, 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. Kim Cattrall gives a career-defining performance in this offbeat love story that appeals to the dreamer – and the nerd – in all of us.
eyelights: its solid cast. its relatively realistic perspective. its mild quirks. its nostalgia factor.
eyesores: its mutted laughs.
“You screw a few hundred guys and the whole world turns against you”
‘Meet Monica Velour’ is a quirky 2010 dramedy about a 17-year-old high schooler’s infatuation with a seventies-eighties porn star, Monica Velour, and his road trip out to meet her. It’s a story of friendship, of love, and of fantasy colliding with reality.
Tobe is a collector. He spends most of his spare time seeking out any vintage memorabilia pertaining to Monica Velour, including VHS tapes, pictures, magazine/news articles, posters, …etc. His room is a wall-to-wall tribute to her.
A cross between ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and Napoleon Dynamite, Tobe is a self-proclaimed dork. His only friend is a 12-year-old boy whom he has difficulty relating to, and he lives with his grandfather, whom he affectionately calls Pop Pop.
For high school graduation, his grandfather gives him the family business: a hot dog truck called the Weenie Wiz, which Tobe has been running in his spare time. Seeing no future in it, he immediately decides to sell it. Unfortunately, his only buyer is from Indiana.
But when he discovers that Monica Velour will be making a return to the stage for an exclusive engagement not far from there, he decides to hop into the Weenie Wiz, close the deal with the prospective buyer and catch her live act along the way
…inadvertently railroading her ambitions in the process.
Going in, I knew very little about ‘Meet Monica Velour’ other than the fact that Kim Cattrall played the titular ex-porn star. That had been enough for me, and when I got the chance to buy the DVD for no more than the price of a rental, I snatched it up.
It started with a pleasing air of nostalgia: its opening credits are composed of memorabilia from throughout Monica Velour’s career, providing background and context. It brought back fond memories of being a teenager during the eighties (although the setting here is 2009).
I was quite impressed with the casting of the young Monica Velour, who actually looks enough like Kim Cattrall did in her younger days to make the 30-year transition believable. So often does one see poor matches in cinema that this attention to detail pleased me.
I also thoroughly enjoyed their re-enactments of some of Velour’s old films, which were all on crappy VHS tapes: the costumes, the set designs, the poor acting, the terrible dialogues, it was all so reminiscent of that era’s ambitious but woefully inadequate productions.
The picture soon introduces us to Tobe, as he’s waiting around the Weenie Wiz for customers and tries to ignore the attentions of Amanda, a klutzy Asian girl who likes him. He thinks she’s too dorky, and states that he draws the line at two dorks dating each other.
And he really is a dork: he’s tall and lanky, kind of douchey, with a slightly annoying (i.e. high-pitched and grating ) tone of voice. But he comes off as sympathetic and not entirely ridiculous, thanks to a heartfelt performance by Dustin Ingram. He’s superb.
But it’s Kim Cattrall who really stands out here. Her Monica Velour is desperate, frustrated and world-weary, exactly what you’d expect from an ex-porn star who’s made poor life choices and continues to struggle with and succumb to her whims late in life.
I’ve never seen her better.
Admittedly, I’ve only seen her in ‘Sex and the City’ and a few movies, but I had always found her performances a bit theatrical, the type of artificiality that works somewhat well in comedies, but not entirely. The one notable exception: her Vulcan in ‘Star Trek VI’.
Here, however, she is entirely grounded and real. You understand/feel her character’s vulnerability, and the emotional carapace that she’s built around herself. There isn’t one moment where Velour feels like a cartoon or isn’t credible. This is entirely due to Cattrall’s take on the part.
Another terrific performance comes from left field, from Brian Dennehy as Pop Pop. I’ve always kind of liked Dennehy’s vibe, but he always came off as a B or C-lister to me. Here, in the part of a crude, cantankerous senior, he stole every scene he was in. He was hilarious.
Although it’s partly a comedy, ‘Meet Monica Velour’ is hardly a feel-good film: it balances its humour with a sobering perspective on the life of an aging ex-porn star, the emotional neediness of a lonely young adult, and the unbridgeable rift dividing their two worlds.
I was quite surprised by Keith Bearden’s approach to the material, in that he mostly eschewed the facile developments and resolutions of similar movies. By the picture’s conclusion, I didn’t feel pandered to, nor that it had sold itself or its characters out in any way.
Honestly, I was quite pleased with ‘Meet Monica Velour’. It’s not grand cinema, but it’s a quality motion picture and it’s even-keeled from start to finish. Buoyed by a phenomenal performance by Cattrall, I suspect that this is a picture that I will revisit from time to time.
Date of viewing: July 27, 2014