Kim Cattrall has been travelling a lot to talk to the media about her new film, Meet Monica Velour, which is out on DVD today (July 4th), and her support for this modest indie is understandable; Cattrall has railed against Hollywood’s indifference to women her age, and was recently pull-quoted on the cover of The Guardian’s ‘Weekend’ magazine as saying she’s finished with the place. Her dowdy, washed up porn actress Monica is light-years from her glam sexpot character on Sex and the City and an undeniably great part for any middle aged actress.
Cattrall is sadly endearing as the damaged Monica, living in a trailer park and struggling with substance abuse while attempting to pay her bills and wrest custody of her daughter from her abusive ex husband. Teenage dork Tobe Hulbert (Dustin Ingram), a Napoleon Dynamite look-alike and avid fan of Ms. Velour’s cheesy oeuvre, discovers that Monica is performing at a club in the Indiana heartland close to where a potential buyer for his kitschy hot dog van lives, and sets out on a road trip to see the woman of his dreams in the flesh.
Ingram and Cattrall have sweet chemistry, but are let down by the story’s predictability and the film’s inability to reconcile its affection for the silliness and seeming naïveté of vintage porn with the industry’s horrible treatment of women generally and Monica specifically. By the time Tobe sets off in his van to see Monica, it’s frustratingly easy to predict every beat of the narrative and the film’s likely conclusion, which feels like a curious miscalculation.
The film makes clear that Monica has been used, abused and abandoned, so it’s a bit puzzling as to why the writer-director opted to graft this gritty, almost tragic character into a hackneyed story of sexual awakening and redemption other than to try and make a palatable film about an uncomfortable subject. A bit more bite and a lot less sugar coating (without going so far as to turn Meet Monica Velour into something horribly dark) would have made for a more powerful and less diluted film.