No American movie of 2011 exceeded my expectations more than Monte Carlo, an escapist comedy that was marketed primarily to preteen girls. While the film certainly works as a wish-fulfillment fantasy, it’s also an object lesson in the art of movie direction, demonstrating how a sensitive filmmaker can elicit universal meaning from trite material. I found a lot of it more poignant and perceptive than a lot of wish-fulfillment fantasies marketed to adults—such as Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which was released around the same time. What distinguishes Monte Carlo is that it encourages the viewer to take all of the characters’ feelings seriously, instead of identifying with one person at the expense of those around her. It’s a surprisingly mature vision, implicitly arguing that happiness should be shared by everyone.