The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #12 November / December 2014
At the Cinema
Everybody's Famous!
by Erik Zidowecki
November / December 2014 | 

We all need someone to believe in us. That is the very heart of the plot in the Belgian film "Everybody's Famous!". It is a comedy revolving around one man's attempt to make his daughter a famous pop star by kidnapping the current famous singer.

Jean Vereecken is a factory worker in a bottle making company, but spends much of his time composing tunes, or at least one specific tune, in his mind. He hums his creations into a cassette recorder and constantly plays them for his best friend Willy, who also works at the factory, and his family: his always dour looking wife Chantal and his resentful teen daughter, Marva.

The ending is full of several twists and leaves (almost) everyone in a better position.

Marva's resentment is towards the world, which is full of people who tend to treat her as a joke because she is overweight, always dismissing her as stupid or useless. Her main resentment is directed towards her father, who is always entering her into singing competitions, believing she has what it takes to be famous. These situations simply make Marva more uncomfortable as she is subjected to more public humiliation.

Now Marva can sing, as is shown when she is performing a hand puppet show for some children and easily sways them into rapture as she sings a song through the puppets. She explains to a friend that the children see her for who she is, without judgement, and that enables her to open up. It is the constant thrust into the public scrutiny of the adult world that stifles her ability to sing on stage.

Jean trying to say goodnight to an angry Marva, who resents his pushing her

Chantal tells Jean many times not to push Marva, but Jean is convinced that Marva will become a star, and that his song will become famous. This is the cycle we see as the film opens; a constant tension around the obsession of becoming famous.

The cycle starts to break when the bottle factory goes bankrupt, firing all of its employees. Jean and Willy suddenly find themselves out of work with people looking to them for support: Jean with his family and Willy with his girlfriend, Lizzy. Lizzy is studying in college and Willy is paying for her tuition.

Jean and Willy decide not to tell the others, as Jean promises Willy he will come up with a way to fix everything. Jean really has no idea what to do, and is spending the days when he is pretending to go to work by the river, eating his home packed lunches and scratching off "instant winner" cards. While driving around on one of these days, his car breaks down, and a young biker stops to help him fix it. The biker removes her helmet, revealing that she is Debbie, the current megapopstar that everyone watches and listens to.

Jean keeps an eye on his newly kidnapped megastar, Debbie. Surprisingly, this is the best thing for both of them.

Debbie is frustrated with her life a celebrity. She would rather be fixing cars, so when she finds Jean with his broken car, she is excited to get a chance to work on it. While Debbie does this, Jean gets her some tea left over from lunch, and notices the sleeping pills he recently bought (anxiety from the job loss has left him sleepless at night). A plan starts to form in his head.

Willy soon gets an excited call from Jean, telling him to meet him by the river. When Willy gets there, he finds a gleeful Jean with a sleeping Debbie tied up in his car. Jean explains that this is their way to fix everything, by kidnapping Debbie. At first, Willy wants no part of it, but he eventually joins Jean in the scheme when Lizzy leaves for a seminar (which will cost Willy even more money).

Once they have moved into a rented cottage to hide Debbie, Jean contacts her manager, Michael, to tell him that he must do what he says if he wants to see Debbie alive again. Later, Jean meets up with Michael to deliver his demands: he wants his song made into a hit, complete with lyrics, in one week. Michael agrees, but thinks Jean is crazy. He isn't too worried about getting Debbie back, since the news sensation of her being kidnapped has made her newly released song the biggest seller of all time.

Things get more complicated as the big hearted Willy gets closer to Debbie, even dog-napping her pet Jerry so they can be together. Debbie is also not in any hurry to be rescued; this is her first real time away from it all in two years.

Michael preparing to see how far Marva will go to become famous

Michael produces the song for Jean, "Lucky Manuelo", and Jean tells him he knows the perfect singer for it: Marva. Jean's plan has always been to have his song be the one that makes Marva famous; he just found the chance to make that happen. Michael contacts Marva, and while he finds her talent very raw, he decides he can work with it.

But while Jean thinks that he is calling the shots by making Michael do all this, we quickly see that Michael has his own plans on what to do with Jean and Marva. Will they ever be famous?

The ending is full of several twists and leaves (almost) everyone in a better position. We see Marva finally understand that her father has always believed in her, and Jean gets to see how much his wife and daughter do believe in him. Debbie and Willy also find their own happiness with people who truly love them for who they are, not for what they can give them.

Chantal confronting her daughter Marva before her live performance

While the ending is uplifting, perhaps the most uplifting part of it all, surprisingly, is the song that Jean has been working on from the start. Even though he doesn't write the words, they come out to be about him. They tell about one man that refused to be ignored, who always pushed forward for what he believed in.

The film is considered "Flemish cinema", with the main language being Dutch, but I don't know if it was really Flemish (Belgian Dutch) or Netherlands Dutch. It was an Academy Award Nominees for Best Foreign Language Film and is rated R (restricted to only adults) in many countries, but this is only because of a single short scene in which a woman is shown topless. There is no violence or excessive sex and strong language. When you are a looking for an uplifting comedy, I would definitely suggest this one.

At The Cinema - Everybody's Famous!
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
• "Everybody's Famous" Internet Movie Database <>
All images are copyright Canal+, Eurimages, Flanders Film Fund, Get Reel Productions, Les Films des Tournelles

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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