Meet Monica Velour is the cheesy, often clumsy, sometimes wrenching study of an unconventional relationship between a teenage misfit and an aging porn star, one that will most likely be best remembered by the all-out, no-holds-barred, warts-and-all “centerfold” performance by Kim Cattrall. Whenever an actor bloats, starves or otherwise disfigures himself for a role, it usually results in awards, critical praise, gossip-column fodder or all three. Remember Jan Sterling removing her makeup in The High and the Mighty, or Christian Bale starving himself beyond recognition in The Machinist? Thankfully shedding her cardboard sexpot image from Sex and the City, Ms. Cattrall gained 20 pounds (onscreen, it looks like even more) to play a real person in Meet Monica Velour, and her bravery is just about the only thing you’ll remember.
Tobe (newcomer Dustin Ingram) is a dorky, unfulfilled red-headed teenager from Washington State who drives a Weenie Wiz truck handing out taco dogs to overweight kids. He’s a sexless geek, but his room is a museum of posters and videos dedicated to his favorite porn star, whose salad days wrapped in the 1980s. In retrospect, and considering what we see now, Monica was harmless fun. I loved the hilarious movie clips of the antiquated soft-core stag films showing scantily clad Monica stalked by aliens shaped like giant phalluses. Her career tanked, but nobody knows what happened to Monica herself. On the Internet, Tobe reads that his fantasy woman is making a personal appearance at a strip joint called the Petting Zoo in Pinhook, Indiana. To the dismay of his drunken, delusional grandfather, Pop Pop (Brian Dennehy), Tobe heads for the open highway in his weenie-mobile, and the movie is off and running.
His adventures on the road are nothing compared to the disillusion he faces when he reaches his destination. What he finds is an aging has-been and divorced mother (real name: Linda Romanoli) who lives in a rundown trailer and has most definitely, undeniably, seen better days. When the kid gets punched in the face for defending her honor against a gang of randy college boys, a tentative friendship begins. She talks about her hardscrabble life and career and her efforts to get her child back while grabbing handfuls of fat around her navel and slathering her face in skin-tightening cream that doesn’t seem to work, trying to force herself to throw up junk food to lose weight. Kim Cattrall gives a bold, courageous, jaw-dropping performance that deserves the attention it’s getting. Nothing much happens, but the odd bonding between the boy and the woman is so devoid of artifice that one wishes for more than writer-director Keith Bearden delivers.
Meet Monica Velour has the same premise as the 1993 film Calendar Girl, which starred a young Jason Priestley as a high-school grad traveling to L.A. in 1962 to meet his idol, Marilyn Monroe. Like Marilyn, Monica is scarred but vulnerable. You’re in her corner, and what she teaches Tobe makes her doubly likable. Harmless coming-of-age stuff, but you’ve seen it all a million times. Tobe is so awkward that it takes time to get used to him, but when he finally grows on you, so does the film’s theme, about giving up adolescent dreams without surrendering the joy of youth. Too bad he settles for an obese Asian girl who thinks Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens is Our Town on acid. But it’s definitely worth seeing for Ms. Cattrall. This gal can really act, in or out of her panties. Just get her away from Sex and the City, and she’ll prove it.
Meet Monica Velour
Running time 98 minutes
Written and directed by Keith Bearden
Starring Kim Cattrall, Dustin Ingram, Brian Dennehy