Everybody's Famous
review by Elias Savada, 27 July 2001

As Flemish comedies go, Everybody's Famous is a low-brow, blue collar farce with as much charm as a spicy slice of Wynendale cheese, ideal for a quick bite of Flanders-based humor. Trying to find an American foothold might be another story for this Oscar nominated feature (losing out to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). As art house audiences here tend to like their foreign fare with subtitles instead of the more plebian dubbing, most of these viewers still aren't going to be too discriminating that this has Flemish dialogue instead of French, German, or any other unfamiliar language. The film wins because it spins a sweet tale fleshed out with well drawn characters and unsophisticated humor, in much the same way such brilliant Australian comedies like The Castle, Muriel's Wedding, and Strictly Ballroom have captured audiences' hearts over the last decade.

Belgian director-writer (and co-producer with his costume-designer wife Loret Meus) Dominique Deruddere's homespun tale about one well-meaning father's attempt to find fame and fortune for his overweight nightingale of a daughter—whose angelic voice turns sour when confronted with a lukewarm case of stage fright—is as flaky as a napoleon, and the ending might just leave you with a giggly custard cream smile.

The story, broad as a smile, centers around Jean Vereecken, a mid-40s quality control technician working nights at a bottle factory. As dedicatedly portrayed by long-time friend (and godfather to one of the director's children) Josse De Pauw, a beloved Belgian actor whose career closely parallels Deruddere's, Jean dutifully earns the family bread. His wife Chantal (Gert Portael) suffers his remaining hours at home playing stage father for his soon-to-blossom seventeen-year-old Marva (newcomer Eva Van Der Gucht), named after a real-life Flemish singer popular in the 1970s. Jean still lives in that carefree decade of puffy floral shirts and mutton chops, despite the hard knocks of today's economy. And his business model collapses when his job of twenty-six years, that of his best friend Willy van Outreve (Werner De Smedt), and the rest of the plant are out of work when management declares bankruptcy. Despite the close-knit nature of the family, Jean keeps the news from his family, although I was hard pressed to believe at least some of his wife's friends had husbands sharing a similar fate worthy of neighborhood chit-chat.

Meanwhile, in the cutthroat world of media conglomerates, iridescent diva Debbie (Dutch heartthrob Thekla Reuten), a gorgeous chanteuse who entrances three million viewers every week, has the body and job to die for, but suffers the disappointment of a private life lost to a world where her face is recognized by every Thomas, Robbe, and Hugo in the far-flung corners of her adoring viewer arena. She rakes in tens of millions of dollars for her powerful manager Michael Jansen (Victor Löw), chockfull of the cunning and looks of Jann Wenner.

As chance has it (the only way the story actually works), Debbie, on a rare day off, is bicycling along a canal path and happens upon Jean's broken down jalopy. She's hidden behind full biking regalia and helmet until she lets her hair out and shows her true colors…as an amateur car mechanic. She'd love to trade in her career for a good monkey wrench. Jean, armed with sleeping pills to battle his (non) work-induced insomnia, offers her some "refreshment" and she wakes up a day later, the subject of a pay-as-you-go kidnapping scheme that eventually involves Willy as his criminal cohort. Which suits the young lad just fine as his live-in girl friend off to a three-week conference in Madrid with a dark-skinned "mathematician," only showing how much Willy is out of the social equation.

Ransom? Well, Jean has been humming up a ditty that he wants his daughter to warble on Song Organ, that ever-popular musical program. Over the course of a week he "negotiates" with Michael to audition Marva and doctor Jean's song up into a possible hit entitled Lucky Manuelo. Debbie and Willy have their own agenda to follow, while Michael envisions a financial windfall, orchestrating his network to keep a stunned nation informed of the latest details in the ultra-hyped case (and selling millions of Debbie's new single), all the time tagging poor Jean, completely out of his element, along as for a fool's ride.

For all the lunacy going on, the film never seems terribly frantic. It's pace is almost too leisurely. Yes, I admit it, the film's corny, but there's nothing wrong with this can of sweet, imported niblets.

Read the Elias Savada's interview

Written and
Directed by:

Dominique Deruddere

Josse De Pauw
Werner De Smedt
Eva Van Der Gucht
Thekla Reuten
Victor Löw
Gert Portael
Ianka Fleerackers
Alice Reys

R - Restricted
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.






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