Director: Eytan Fox
Major players: Ofer Shechter, Anat Waxman, Dana Ivgi
Out of five? 3.5
With just over a week to go before this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the warm-up act is currently in cinemas in the frothy shape of Cupcakes from Israeli director, Eytan Fox. And it’s just as kitsch and cheesy as you would expect. Admit it. You’d be disappointed if it wasn’t!
In this case, it’s the Universong Contest – which looks remarkably like Eurovision – and a group of friends in Israel are watching the final. Their country’s entry doesn’t do well – a feeling the UK knows all too well – and they end up singing to Anat, one of the friends, who’s feeling down because her husband has left her. That song is recorded by one of them and ends up being the song to represent Israel the following year. But then the impromptu band find that the powers-that-be want them to be something they’re not ……
Well, I did say it was cheesy, but it doesn’t really matter. In fact, there’d be something wrong if a film that’s essentially about Eurovision was anything but. Bright and sweet, it’s rather like dipping into a bowl of old fashioned dolly mixtures, with all its candy colours. And it’s oh-so camp.
The soundtrack is equally pure cheese – Captain and Tenille and even Dana, who won Eurovision back in 1970, which exemplifies the spirit of the contest that the band try to re-create when they appear on stage wearing their own clothes. The only nod towards the now-traditional style of the competition is the band’s sole male, Ofer (Ofer Shechter), who teams a dinner jacket with a pink toutou.
Where the film falls down is on the characters. Just to make sure we don’t confuse them, they each wear the same colour throughout the film – Anat (Anat Waxman) is in red, Dana (Dana Ivgi) is in blue and so on – and they are all defined by their jobs: Ofer works in a children’s nursery and Keren (Keren Berger) is a blogger. That’s about as far as the characterisation goes, so the actors are hard pushed to turn what they’re given into something convincing. And the Minister of Culture, Dana’s boss, is straight out of the pages of a cartoon – and not necessarily a satirical one.
But it’s hard to resist Cupcakes’ charm and sense of fun, which is almost reminiscent of Pedro Almodovar at his most playful. It means you can almost overlook its shortcomings. I did say ‘almost’.
Cupcakes is currently on release around the UK and is available on DVD from 12 May.