A modest and at times quite sweet comedy about a middle-aged man who goes to enormous lengths to help his teenage daughter become a singing star, "Everybody Famous!" is accessible entertainment that will be constrained outside Europe by language and lack of names. It could, however, attract niche audiences in English-speaking territories, and is good material for quality TV programming. Pic is Belgium's entry for the foreign language Oscar competition.

A modest and at times quite sweet comedy about a middle-aged man who goes to enormous lengths to help his teenage daughter become a singing star, “Everybody Famous!” is accessible entertainment that will be constrained outside Europe by language and lack of names. It could, however, attract niche audiences in English-speaking territories, and is good material for quality TV programming. Pic is Belgium’s entry for the foreign language Oscar competition.

Belgian director Dominique Deruddere gained some notoriety in 1987 with his confrontational first feature, “Crazy Love,” based on the Charles Bukowski tome. Subsequently, he attempted but failed to crack the international market with the Faye Dunaway starrer “Wait Until Spring, Bandini” (1989), and his “Suite 16″ (1994) and “Hombres Complicados” (1997) weren’t seen much outside the fest circuit. “Crazy Love” and “Hombres” both starred Josse De Pauw, who toplines again for the director as the father who becomes an impromptu kidnapper in an attempt to kickstart his daughter’s career.

Marva (Eva van der Gucht) is 17 and decidedly overweight; she has a sweet singing voice, but the fact that she lacks the oomph to become a singing star is obvious to everyone but her devoted parents, Jean (De Pauw) and Chantal (Gert Portael). Jean works at a bottle factory and hangs out with his younger buddy, Willy (Werner De Smedt), who works to pay his wife’s student fees. Willy is the only one impressed with Jean’s enthusiastic attempts at songwriting.

When the factory closes down, the men are thrown into despair. But opportunity knocks when Jean, whose car has broken down on a back road, is offered assistance by an attractive femme cyclist and recognizes her as Debbie (Thekla Reuten), a local pop singer with several hits. Without thinking anything through, he offers her a drink laced with sleeping pills and hides her in a holiday cabin, contacting her manager, Michael (Viktor Low), with an unusual ransom demand — that he give Marva a shot on TV.

It doesn’t take much for Michael to work out what’s going on, but, being an opportunist, he plays along to get more publicity for Debbie.

There are no real surprises in Deruddere’s screenplay, which is very much in the post — “Full Monty” realm of unemployed blue-collar workers who seek a shot of fame and glamour to brighten their drab lives. The mood is light and the actors give engaging performances. De Pauw is a treat as the tenacious dad who has atrocious taste in clothing and who dons a Michael Jackson mask to negotiate with the manipulative Michael, while van der Gucht is likable as the chubby, sweet-voiced Marva. As the kidnapped singing star, Reuten makes a solid impression.

Pic contains a few fairly predictable swipes at the banality of television along the way. The awkward English title should be altered if the slickly packaged film has a hope for further exposure.

Everybody Famous!

Belgium - Netherlands - France

Production

An Otomatic (Brussels)/Get Reel Prods. (Amsterdam)/Les Films des Tournelles (Paris) production, in association with Netherlands Fund for Film, Flanders Film Fund, Eurimages, VRT, NPS, Canal Plus. (International sales: Otomatic, Brussels.) Produced by Dominique Deruddere, Loret Meus. Co-producers, Volkert Struycken, Errol Nayci, Anne Dominique Toussaint, Pascal Judelwicz. Directed, written by Dominique Deruddere.

Crew

Camera (color), Willy Stassen; editor, Ludo Troch; music, Raymond van het Groenwoud; production designer, Hubert Pouille; costume designer, Loret Meus; line producer, Gerard Vercruysse; assistant director, Frank Devos. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Cinema of the Present), Aug. 30, 2000. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Jean Vereecken - Josse De Pauw Marva Vereecken - Eva van der Gucht Willy van Outreve - Werner De Smedt Debbie - Thekla Reuten Michael - Viktor Low Chantal Vereecken - Gert Portael (Flemish dialogue)
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