Cupcakes Movie Review
Eurovison fans will find this Israeli comedy to be sheer cinematic joy. Not only is it a hilariously astute satire of the music competition, but it's also packed with deeper political meaning. And the music makes us want to dance. It's also a refreshing shift for filmmaker Eytan Fox, whose previous films like The Bubble and Yossi dealt with much darker themes.
In the latest UniverSong contest, Israel came in dead last. So of course everyone thinks they could do better next year. When a group of friends improvise a song to cheer up their recently single cupcake-baker pal Anat (Anat Waxman), the idea gains traction. Schoolteacher Ofer (Ofer Shechter) leads the charge, but lawyer Yael (Yael Bar Zohar) and politician Dana (Dana Ivgy) feel that such silly competitions will belittle their careers. Blogger Keren (Keren Berger) thinks she has no talent, while musician Efrat (Efrat Dor) thinks he's above this kind of silly pop. But the real challenge for this group is to perform the song their way, because the powers that be want them to fit into the usual mould.
Fox further complicates everything with romantic entanglements for all six characters, each of which adds to the central theme about overcoming fear to do the right thing. For example, Ofer's boyfriend (Alon Levi) is too famous to come out as gay, while Yael is having a fling with her boss (Lior Ashkenazi). And while all of these storylines make the film feel a bit overcrowded, they're easily kept apart because Fox colour-codes the entire movie, giving each character his or her own hue, like Teletubbies.
He also gives meaning to the silliness by underscoring everything with more serious themes. Beneath the bright and bouncy surface, there are all kinds of intriguing things going on that make the film satisfying as well as entertaining. The competing songs are hilarious pastiche versions of Eurovision numbers, but our group's entry Anat You've Got the Guts is the catchiest one of all. Each scene is beautifully played by the gifted cast, and in the end we feel like maybe we actually can resist fear, rely on our friends and run out into the streets for a cathartic dance.