Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Movie with Abe: Eurovision Song Contest

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Directed by David Dobkin
Released June 26, 2020 (Netflix)

There is something about a competition that can rally those who would normally not get along to feel a sense of camaraderie and shared excitement. This is seen most often in sporting events, where those who wouldn’t ever speak to each other are rooting for the same teams and focused most on the moment rather than any conflicting opinions. Just as sports are centered around a city, school, or even country, international gatherings like Eurovision bring together aspiring musicians and talent from across the world. What’s represented in this Netflix comedy is obviously an exaggeration of real life, but many of its themes ring true despite being presented in this over-the-top narrative.

Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams) have been friends since childhood in their small village of Husavik in Iceland. Lars hasn’t done much with his life, but he continues to try to fulfill his enduring dream of representing his country at Eurovision. Despite being the absolute last choice for Iceland thanks to a series of mishaps, Lars and Sigrit end up heading to Edinburgh to compete. They discover a giant stage waiting for them with sky-high expectations, and both Icelanders and the whole of Europe betting on them to embarrass Iceland and fail miserably.

Though he has waded into slightly more serious territory in the past, it’s a good bet that any film starring Ferrell is going to be a comedy, and so there isn’t much indication that this film should be taken at face value. Lars may have talent but he never picks the right music, and a major plot point of the film is that he doesn’t notice the romantic affection Sigrit has always had for him. She’s more clearly capable, and her eternal connection to him, in the eyes of other Husavik residents, has kept her from fulfilling her potential. McAdams is well-suited for the role, and she does a superb job of balancing the excess and the passion.

This film should prove entertaining even for those with little to no familiarity with the real Eurovision, and an enthusiasm towards the contest is likely to make it infinitely more enjoyable. Its humor and slightly fantastical elements are meant to poke fun at the stories people tell as defining of their homelands or nationalities, and, for the most part, it works since sophistication is not the goal. The ensemble cast is entertaining, including Dan Stevens as a flamboyant Russian singer and a host of other small parts. Most of all, the music is terrific, particularly the Oscar-nominated song “Husavik” that serves, like this film, as a tribute to the true beauty of Eurovision and a send-up of it at the same time.


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