Published Jun 30, 2011Superficially, Thomas Bezucha's (The Family Stone, Big Eden) latest plea for free-spirited idealism over conservative values is harmless enough, following bickering stepsisters Grace (Selena Gomez) and Meg (Leighton Meester) on a reluctant bonding trip to Paris, where Grace is mistaken for rich bitch heiress Cordelia Winthrop Scott.
But beneath its surface of absurdist mistaken identity scenarios and small town goofiness in the face of upper-class pretence is a weirdly cynical and antiquated notion that young women need not have ambition or inner identity, since such things are defined explicitly by the men in their lives.
Early on, Grace's character is under the undergraduate impression that going to Paris will make her into a new person, which is ostensibly her only motivation for the trip. Stepsister Meg isn't keen on travelling at all, still grieving over the death of her mother some years earlier. Their somewhat lethargic trajectory is spiced up by brash, unflappable older best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy), who tags along mainly to see what else there is in the world before settling into a budget-conscious small town existence.
In theory, these girls would learn a little about themselves, and identity as something internal and perpetual, rather than something arbitrarily defined by externality and geography, but Bezucha is more interested in having each girl meet a respective cute boy that takes them on a journey of whimsy and ideological assimilation. For example, we're supposed to be happy that the surly, condescending Meg has found herself with a new, obligation-free Australian boyfriend that wants to take her around the world, even though psychologically she's just using him as means of personal avoidance and procrastination.
These peculiar and slightly off-putting subplots won't phase the targeted teen demographic, which will likely enjoy the many nice dresses and moderately clever one-liners that pop up in every scene. However, they might notice how much the film lags in parts, not having a sense of pacing or its hyper-realized, adjacent reality, only they would just say, "it's kind of boring in some parts."
And, going back to the superficial aspects, it's interesting that this vehicle for Selena Gomez just shows of the immense comic talents of Katie Cassidy, who understands the cartoonish, manic tone of the endeavour, biting into her Southern belle cliché of a character with magnetic energy. Meester does fine as a slightly less schizophrenic version of her character on Gossip Girl, which is still far better than the dim, humourless performance from a seemingly indifferent Gomez, who possesses a natural on camera ease that's wasted by a lack of insight and analysis. (Fox)