What to do while watching:
What to eat while watching:
They say that the three most longed-for things among modern humans are money, sex, and fame. I never understood the first two in face of the last. I mean, you can have money and still be celibate, lonely and unknown; you can have sex and still be poor and unappreciated; but if you have fame, it's pretty easy to parlay it into money and sex as well. A case in point is Tom Green, who got famous and then got rich and then got Drew Barrymore. (More on Tom Green at the end--a guest review!)
But these desires--money, fame, sex, Drew Barrymore--are pretty base and selfish, of course. I think Everybody's Famous is such a pleasure to watch mainly because Jean, the protagonist, has an all-consuming desire to bring fame not to himself, but to his daughter, Marva. His desire is so totally selfless that he is perfectly willing to be tragicomic, to become your classic schlemiel, to give up his own money and sex, if it means that Marva can enjoy the limelight.
This, as you can guess, is not an American movie. The American equivalent might be Gypsy, a film about an overbearing stage mother whose own deferred desire for fame drives one daughter way, way away from show business, and the other daughter to stripping. Everybody's Famous, on the other hand, is really uplifting. More than anything else, Jean's main characteristic is love for his daughter--not love for show biz.
Marva is a troubled teenager. She's pretty--pretty chunky. Plus her personality is awkward and retiring. She participates in open-mic karaoke contests and never wins because her delivery is so lack-luster. Her great voice never gets appreciated through her dead-halibut delivery. Only Jean sits in the audience snapping his fingers and clapping. Jean is constantly coming up with million-dollar schemes to get his daughter famous. He composes songs in his head for her to sing complete with guitars and trumpets.
Marva, on the other hand, despises Jean's attempts and feels nothing but humiliation and shame. Ungrateful brat! you might say, but it's easy to see how Jean's obsessive attentions could aggravate her shyness and lower her self-confidence even more. Marva does have depth, though. We see her performing a puppet show for a school classroom, and in this context we see her sing beautifully and with real soul.
As we do in life, the characters in this film live under the shadow of superstars, particular individuals that rise from the ranks to dominate television broadcasts, radio waves, and all media. For Marva and Jean, pop singer Debbie is the icon who polarizes all of their hopes and jealousies.
The story gets moving when Jean perchances to meet Debbie on the road. His car breaks down just as she's cycling by. Turns out, Debbie is a pretty with-it chick, and likes working on cars--a lot more than being a pop singer in some ways. Jean manages to leverage this chance meeting into another opportunity for Marva. Jean hooks up with Debbie's manager, an entertainment "playa" with a sort of good/evil deus-ex-machina energy about him. He's sort of the Coyote spirit, the Loki energy in this story. He has control beyond normal people to grant wishes and deny wishes, almost at his whim. We see him manipulate Jean mercilessly, but still bring about a very happy ending for him. He is both creepy and deep, both callous and tender. This feat in characterization itself shows some originality and talent in writing.
In all the play is so heartfelt that it's very hard not to get swept away in it. The climactic scene turns tension into a genuine grin, and the theme song's chorus, in English, is quite catching. Both the Mrs. and I were singing, "Lucky Manuelo!" for days afterwards.
The Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film in 2000 (I think) is well deserved, and I would recommend this film to all friends and acquaintances.
A Coda on Tom Green's Freddy Got Fingered.
It was a gray day when I managed to get a promotional copy of this film. I watched it and was seriously turned off. I could hardly even given Green credit for trying. In a double feature with the Maytag Washing Machine Instructional Video, FGF was the less enjoyable film. I offered it free to anyone with a sick fascination for it, and my brother, David Fleischmann, was the only one who stepped forward with any willingness to take it off my hands. Too bad for him. Here is his response:
Say, faithful readers. Another free video has drifted into my possession. It's called "Boot Men." Would anyone like to watch?
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.