Despite its Hitchcockian title and corresponding everyman-embroiled-in-foreign-intrigue premise, The Girl from Monaco is a frustratingly suspense-free affair, troubling to set up central mysteries and then keeping them almost exclusively on the film’s periphery, while concentrating attention on an uninvolving, unlikely love triangle. High-profile French attorney Bertrand (Fabrice Luchini) is lured to the Las Vegas-like principality of Monaco to defend an alleged murderess (played in brief snippets by French star Stephane Audran) and finds himself saddled with a full-time bodyguard, Christophe (Roschdy Zem), thanks to the specter of Russian mafia involvement in the trial. A humorless stoic who practices solitary Krav Maga exercises in off-duty moments, Christophe’s sole job is to stand, statue-like, near Bertrand at all times, which he does until he’s enticed to join the gregarious lawyer in a late-night hotel dinner, where friendship unexpectedly blooms. The talkative, physically unthreatening Bertrand can’t hide his esteem for the imposing bodyguard’s effortless, antiquated masculinity, which he observes at several junctures and most crucially when Christophe uses it to willfully usher an unwelcome female acquaintance out of Bertrand’s hotel room, before directing her to his own, adjacent room where he seduces her himself, with ease.
Rather than feel emasculated by the presence of such a virile, dominating younger man, the aging lawyer’s flagging libido is stirred and revitalized by the vicarious charge derived from watching his new friend so calmly and assuredly take care of his daily business, including female business. Feeling renewed, vibrant, and more like a “real man” than at the film’s beginning, Bertrand is able to respond affirmatively when faced with the surprising come-ons of twentysomething Audrey (Louise Bourgoin), a bouncy, gum-snapping local TV weather girl (recent French cinema seems to associate this job with sluttiness) who latches on to him after becoming aware of his minor celebrity status. But is Audrey, with her big hair and primary-colored outfits, really what she seems? What to make of her insistence on capturing Bertrand on camcorder, for example? And what about her prior affair with Christophe, which is acknowledged but unelaborated on?
Answers are slow to emerge, as director Anne Fontaine refrains from setting up and paying off events in either a typical or satisfyingly unorthodox way, instead mining encounters between characters for their own particular romantic or sexual power dynamics, with little regard for advancing a macro plot. Fontaine endeavors to put characters with different relationships to sex in the same room and have them go at it, verbally or otherwise, and as with her 2003 film, Nathalie…, she demonstrates here a particular interest in sexually dominant young females and anal sex, with Audrey at one point coaxing Bertrand into her pink-walled, girlishly decorated bedroom and demanding backdoor action. A memorial poster to Princess Diana looks on during this particular interlude, with Fontaine perhaps trying to drive home how out of place Bertrand’s penchant for critical thinking is during such a juncture, but these moments are unnecessarily at the expense of—instead of serving—the narrative; the story seems to be happening somewhere outside the perspective of these characters. With time almost up, Girl from Monaco does ultimately spill some resolution, but the forced, momentary ramp-up from nothing to violent retribution that’s required is laughably unsupported and exposes the entire film’s enormous imbalance.