A love, murder tale full of French film cliches

Louise Bourgoin and Fabrice Luchini in "The Girl from Monaco," where Luchini meets Bourgoin as he prepares to defend a woman on trial.

The Girl from Monaco isn't the only recent French flick to deal with murder, messy family histories and a sexy TV weathercaster.

Claude Chabrol's Girl Cut In Two beat Anne Fontaine's Girl from Monaco to the punch by a good many months. Chabrol's thriller also beats Fontaine's in terms of making any kind of emotional sense.

At best diverting, at worst an almost self-parodic compendium of French film cliches, The Girl from Monaco stars Fabrice Luchini as a legendarily successful defense attorney. His Bertrand Beauvois, exacting, erudite, has come to Monaco to defend a 70-year-old woman on trial for murder. It's a case tied up with the Russian mob, and so Bertrand has been assigned a bodyguard while in town: the serious, seriously un-chatty Christophe (Roschdy Zem).

Bertrand doesn't see the necessity for such protection - in fact, he resents it. Christophe lurks by Bertrand's side in restaurants; he's even checked into the adjacent hotel room. Inevitably, of course, a friendship develops between these dissimilar types, a friendship put to the test when Bertrand falls madly for Audrey (Louise Bourgoin), the disco-dancing vixen who does the forecasts on the local news. A certified meteorologist she is not.

Complicating matters is the fact that Christophe and Audrey already know each other - intimately. Complicating matters more, Bertrand is losing his ability to present a cogent case. He's being driven to distraction by this tall drink of Mediterranean l'eau.

Fontaine fools around with this uneasy triangular relationship, laying out the conflicting natures of her characters in a breezy style. The film certainly has an erotic charge about it - thanks to Bourgoin's aggressively sexual performance - but it has little else to offer.

Except the scenery: all those twisty roads rising into the sun-splashed hills. Watch for dangerous curves!

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

Girl From Monaco (La Fille de Monaco)

Directed by Anne Fontaine. With Louise Bourgoin, Christophe Van de Velde, Gilles Cohen, Roschdy Zem, Stéphane Audran, Philippe Duclos, Alexandre Steiger, Fabrice Luchini, Jeanne Balibar, Hélène de Saint-Père. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 35 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for some sexual content and language).