Everybody’s Famous (review)

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Is there anybody who doesn’t want to be famous? Sure: those who already are. A 2000 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, this Belgian-Dutch-French production — performed in the Flemish language — proves that a mania for celebrity isn’t a bizarre phenomenon exclusive to the Great Sodom of America. Eighteen-year-old Marva Vereecken (Eva van der Gucht) sings in talent competitions, but though she has a lovely voice, she lacks confidence and passion — one gets the impression she sings only for the benefit of her factory-worker dad, Jean (Josse De Pauw), who has off-loaded all his hopes for a better life onto his only child. Undeterred by Marva’s apparent lack of interest, Jean parlays a chance encounter with a famous pop star who’s tired of fame, the single-monikered Debbie (Thekla Reuten), into an opportunity to jumpstart Marva’s singing career. The situation — manhandled by Jean and his sweet, dimbulb pal Willy (Werner De Smedt) — careens wildly out of control, and the film morphs from agreeable family dramedy into satirical farce, sending up the morbid glee with which the media turn tragedy into entertainment. “Who can be happy with a normal life?” Marva wonders, and in a world in which seemingly only the famous are happy, it appears a valid question. But writer/director Dominique Deruddere steers clear of validating our celebrity culture by avoiding a “fame cures all ills” resolution, though it might initially seem that he doesn’t, by embracing a perennial “be yourself” theme: Debbie is denying her true self with her music career; Marva is denying hers by not putting her soul into her music. It’s when both stop fighting fate that they achieve bliss… and so does the audience.

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