Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
"Becoming a star! That’s all that counts for many people today," declares writer/director Dominique Deruddere, who derives a good deal of entertainment from demonstrating what a very silly idea that is in Everybody Famous! His satirical exposé of fan mania and media cynicism is as embarrassing and funny as family night at the karaoke bar.
The chubby and shy Marva Vereecken, named after a famous 70s Belgian pop star, is realistically sceptical about her chances of following in her namesake’s footsteps. Watching television and passing spiteful comments about the undeserved fame of others is more her forté. Even though her Madonna impersonations consistently earn her last place at the local talent quests, Marva’s father Jean is convinced she’s got what it takes to become world famous in Belgium – even more famous than the ethereally synthetic national pop idol Debbie.
Mother and daughter Vereecken barely humour father’s ambitions or his forays into songwriting over breakfast, but his gormless friend Willy provides the little encouragement he needs. Made redundant from his factory job, Jean’s showbiz dreams become increasingly feverish.
When he comes across the fabulous and far from ethereal Debbie cycling incognito on the highway, he sees his big break. Why not get famous for kidnapping somebody famous? When kidnapped Debbie’s faltering record sales go through the roof, her manager sees ancillary value in Jean’s strategy. In the film’s most inspired piece of inept chicanery, Jean disguises himself as Michael Jackson to negotiate with the more competently unscrupulous manager.
As the plot thickens, celebrity mania escalates to energise the entire Belgian nation, including Marva. Assisted by a lively cast of comic actors, a flair for farce and a soundtrack overflowing with unforgivably catchy Euro-kitsch, Deruddere keeps the mood light and the jokes flying. — Bill Gosden
Despite its corniness, predictability, and offhand sexism (picture The King of Comedy as a skit on The Benny Hill Show), as well as its disproportionate notoriety (it was nominated for last year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar), Everybody Famous! is too brisk and plucky to dislike. By the umpteenth performance of the song that makes improbable stars of Jean and Marva – a grating pseudo-bolero that lingers in the mind like a bad hangover – you may be forced to agree with an onscreen newscaster who sums up the film’s events as ‘a high day for Flemish showbiz’. Truly. — Mark Holcomb, Village Voice, 11/6/01