Tribeca Review: Meet Monica Velour
Meet Monica Velour (Kim Cattrall). She was the best of the best in the world of adult entertainment back in the 80s. She headlined the raunchiest dirty movies, won awards for her performances and amassed an enormous fan base of loyal followers. About three decades later, Monica is left with just one devotee and, oddly enough, he hadn’t even hit his teen years during the height of her fame.
Just out of high school with only an old hot dog truck to his name, Tobe Hulbert (Dustin Ingram) is stuck in Washington living with his grandfather (Brian Dennehy). With a dreary summer selling hotdogs and hanging out with his 12-year-old neighbor (Daniel Yelsky) ahead of him, Tobe contemplates driving down to Indiana to sell the hot dog mobile to an interested buyer (Keith David). It just so happens, that deal would need to be made in Pinhook, the same town Monica Velour is set to make an appearance in. Tobe needs no convincing. He hops in his truck to make some cash, but more importantly, to meet his idol.
Tobe isn’t the hottest guy at school, drives a blue truck with a gigantic wiener on top of it, has a tubby 12-year-old for a buddy and thinks the best music comes from the 30s. Get the picture? The kid is as nerdy and awkward as they come. Imagine Napoleon Dynamite, but with some brighter ideas. Ingram is a downright natural in the role and not just because he’s slender and a little on the geeky side. Instead of pushing Tobe over the edge and making him a caricature of the typical nerd, he keeps the quirkiness in check and makes him seem like a normal kid – with some eccentric interests. You feel his passion right from the start so when he ventures off to meet the 49-year-old version of his dream girl, it actually makes sense.
Of course there’s nothing normal about a teen dating a woman 30 years his senior, but rather than be smacked over the head with the taboo, writer-director Keith Bearden eases the audience into the scenario using a scene that makes their connection plausible. Okay, there’s nothing reasonable about a 17-year-old hanging out in a strip club, but when he defends his idol from a crowd of hecklers, suffering a blow to the face for the deed, Tobe landing in Monica’s care is appealing and is what one would hope any thoughtful stranger would do.
You’d think it’d be hard to separate Cattrall from her Sex and the City character, particularly because Samantha Jones and Monica Velour share an affinity for everything and anything sexual, but Monica is no Samantha. In fact, the connection never even comes to mind. She occasionally teeters on the line of melodrama, but, for the most part, Cattrall gives us a genuinely heartbroken woman. As she aged, her fame faded and all her career left her with was a bad reputation, a bad relationship and a daughter caught in the middle of it all.
Both Tobe and Monica are well developed. You accept their plight and sincerely hope they embrace each other and just make everything all right. But, of course, if it were that easy, we’d have no movie and, more importantly, no comedy. The chemistry between Ingram and Cattrall is evident making their relationship endearing, however, Bearden keeps them at a distance and packs the in between with an amusing idiosyncratic comedy. There’s some silly imagery to giggle at, but there’s no slapstick here. The humor comes from Bearden’s thoughtful dialogue. Some of the things that come out of Tobe’s mouth are so absurd you can’t help but to grin. Tack on Ingram’s added youthful innocence, and the moment becomes laugh-out-loud funny.
With Ingram and Cattrall leading the way and Dennehy on board as Pop Pop and David as the man with an eye on the hot dog truck, the lesser known supporting cast could easily go overlooked. However, their performances are surprisingly memorable. Jee Young Han gets a few laughs as Amanda, a school loser and a girl Tobe has an unusual connection with, as does Yelsky as Tobe’s little pal Kenny. But the one you’ll never forget is Snickers (Elizabeth Wright Shapiro), the young stripper that greets Tobe when he arrives at The Petting Zoo. Between Bearden’s hilarious dialogue and Wright Shapiro’s spot on performance, in just a few minutes, Snickers becomes the film’s funniest character.
Meet Monica Velour is simple, sweet and enjoyable. It has its flaws, but all are minor enough to go unnoticed if you’ll allow yourself to take the film for what it is, an unusual story about two unusual characters. It’s silly but not stupid and it doesn’t have a deep meaning, but undoubtedly conjures up some serious emotion. See Meet Monica Velour to get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside – not the dirty kind.
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