Everybody's Famous!Reviewed By Thom
Posted 07/13/01 09:43:10
(Worth A Look)
Movies about fame are all the rage these days. Almost Famous, Velvet Goldmine, Anniversary Party, and the upcoming America's Sweetheart's are feeding our fascination with fame by making stardom even more mythic but also showing how accessible it is. What's it take to get there? And why would anyone want it? Does Debbie deserve her fame, does Marva deserve to be famous. In America, its not something you deserve, often times its just something that happens to you if you manage to get the right backing. Put a face in front of 250 million people and yes, you are going to be famous. Being talented doesn't give one the power that money and influence will buy you. Getting to that power is the quest. "Everybody wants to be famous", says Marva. "Who would be happy with a normal life?" "I am", replies her mother.Everybody's Famous is Belgian Director Dominique Deruddere's exploration of the allure of fame. Marva Veereecken (Eva Van Der Gucht) is 17 and dreams of escaping the factory town where she grew up by becoming a pop star. It happens to people all the time, so why not her? She relentlessly enters local singing competitions goaded on by her Father, Jean (Josse De Pauw). Trouble is, she's not what you'd call pop star material. And worse, her stage performances lack any passion whatsoever. She is often accused of not being able to feel one single word she sings. The judges unmercifully give her consistently low scores and while her mother (Gert Portael) and father are equally supportive, she blames her father most of all. Her father thinks she just needs to find the right song to sing, so he composes songs for her by dah-dah-dahing into a tape recorder and dreams of hearing his songs played by real instruments. Nobody would set up a film with this premise without giving the characters what they want and Deruddere tortures the characters with their desires. When Jean kidnaps Debbie (Thekla Reuten), the biggest pop-star in the Netherlands, he sets off a media spectacle that turns the wheels of fortune for everyone.
I don't think this film would have the same impact if it were made in America. Our pop stars end up with worldwide recognition while huge European stars are barely a blip in the US. That sort of attention skews the sympathy factor. Nobody would ever believe that a mega-star would be out riding their bike in the middle of nowhere, alone, or much less stop to help someone fix their car. That is not how its supposed to go. People like seeing bigger than life yet "people just like us" characters on the screen. That is why people go to movies in the first place. Else we'd just sit around staring at each other. "Honey, go wash dishes, I'm going to sit at the table and watch". We've been trained since birth to be voyeurs. In Everybody's Famous ,the attitude is that if you give your people something that is really from them, then somehow you deserve all the attention that you get. Debbie is the national fantasy who is echoed in the scene where Marva dresses up like Madonna in an effort to conform to the template that exists for "pop-star".
So how do people who don't seem to deserve fame, become famous?
In one of my favorite scenes, A reluctant co-kidnapper, Willy (Werner De Smedt) asks Debbie if she really slept her way to the top. She replies, "I never have and never will because I have talent". And she's very proud of herself for having natural ability and would like it if she, instead of her fame, were controlling her life.
The plot takes some predictable turns but the audience I saw it with loved this film. They identified with the story of the blossoming of the adolescent Marva as not just a woman but as a public sensation as well, as if the two were somehow intertwined. When you become fully yourself then you become a star. Maybe this is what the title Everybody's Famous is about. The beautiful and celebrated want to be seen as more than a shell as much as the less attractive and obscure. (Suspend your disbelief for a moment.) It's what's inside that really counts and staying true to yourself. Debbie wanted to walk away from her fame while Marva desperately wanted to trade places with her.
Television is the all-powerful force shaping events in this film. I liked how the role of television faded into the background. Unlike in Series 7, The Contenders where the role of television was the focus of the movie, in Everybody's Famous, television was the transparent entity it is in our society. In spite of it always being right there in front of everybody, it's also like air. It's just there. But since the film was showing the mechanics of fame as well as the lust for it, television ends up as this central character and vital plot device. The whole story turns on two important televised moments. In the end, justice prevails and even the minor (very minor) subplots are resolved to the greater good of those who deserve to be rewarded for their righteousness. If your girlfriend got you to pay for a vacation for her and the man she was cheating on you for (he's got the looks, you've got the money) wouldn't you like to end up on national television with your new girlfriend, the most famous pop-star in the country?
This was Eva Van Der Gucht's first film acting along an experienced and talented cast. She didn't have any of that self-conscious awkwardness that comes out of people when you put them on camera for the first time. You know, that little voice that keeps saying, "Am I doing this right?", "Do I look like TV?" The characters were all palpable without being too much in the spotlight. You know how when you are watching a Julia Roberts film and every scene Roberts is in, that's all you can seem to notice? Well, this film is not like that. It's what you'd expect from foreign cinema. The actors made characters that seem like real people and that embody something of the national characteristic.Everybody's Famous says that fame is a mask and at times its a ridiculous mask. After all, what does lurk in the depths of Kathy Lee's psyche? This movie is not flashy, or hip but its a great story, moves nicely and its easy to get involved in the characters. Like in Billy Elliot, you really do starting rooting for the awkward local girl to find herself and shine.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|