If you don’t know what Eurovision is, either because you are American or because you have been living under a rock for the last 60 years, let me give you a brief rundown. It is an annual song contest in which 50 countries and their acts submit an original song and compete to reach the final. The final is more about the entertainment value of the performance than the song itself. Five music professionals from each country along with the general public vote for their favourites and points are awarded accordingly. (The points system is complicated and longwinded, so I am glad this wasn’t really included in the movie).
Here are a couple of my favourite Eurovision performances:
Will Ferrel, the writer, producer and lead actor of this movie, first encountered Eurovision when he was visiting his wife’s family in Sweden. He was enraptured by it. The Story of Fire Saga certainly honours Eurovision, rather than making fun of it. It is a happy accident that the release of this movie coincides with the first time in 64 years that Eurovision has been cancelled (due to Covid-19).
Fire Saga is a band from Iceland comprising of Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrel) and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams). The movie shows their journey from the small town of Húsavík to the big stage of Eurovision and all the hurdles they come across along the way. Some of the hurdles are a bit clichéd, like when they both think that the other has slept with someone else, though some are unique to Eurovision and are very well executed. I can’t imagine any officials murdering their contestants in real life because they don’t want to host Eurovision, however, it is true that some countries have sent rubbish acts to avoid the financial burden of hosting.
Lars is a very unlikeable and self-absorbed character for most of the movie. He is obsessed with winning Eurovision, and that is his only ambition in life. I think Alexander Lemtov was originally intended to be the sleazy Russian with statues of himself filling his house, but Dan Stevens played him so well that he became more likeable than Lars. Lemtov had so much depth and goes through a full arc. He realises that his country denies his sexuality, but he cannot suppress it any longer himself. The main difference between Lars and Lemtov is their relationship to Sigrit: Lemtov wants to help Sigrit’s music career, whereas Lars seemingly only wants to use her to win Eurovision. Lars does somewhat redeem himself when he plays Sigrit’s song in the final and sacrifices their chances of winning. I still preferred Lemtov with his brilliant braiding and one-liners.
It hurts less if we laugh along. pic.twitter.com/m7ubsBBUKa
— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) June 27, 2020
Sigrit is a sweet Icelandic woman who is completely in love with Lars and believes in elves. She is the talented one in Fire Saga. This is a new kind of role for Rachel McAdams and I think she executed it pretty well. Her Icelandic accent wasn’t that authentic, but it didn’t detract from her performance too much as most of the accents were exaggerated. Did anyone know that McAdams could sing like that? In actual fact, her vocals were blended with those of Molly Sandén (a Swedish singer), so that could be why we haven’t seen McAdams in any musical roles before.
All the songs in the movie are super catchy and very Eurovision. The Song-A-Long is great fun with cameos from many past Eurovision contestants, though I will admit I only recognised four of them. I would have liked the lipsynced songs highlighted in the credits and the actual singers credited clearly.
Every Monday morning is improved by a Eurovision song-along. pic.twitter.com/7DxwZx2Bht
— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) June 29, 2020
One of the funniest moments is when Lars is insulting the American tourists. Knowing that Will Ferrel is American and is insulting his own people just made it even funnier. “Don’t come to Iceland… you might get killed by elves!” Normally I don’t find Will Ferrel movies too humorous, but this one was different. I think it was a combination of the decrease in physical comedy and the witty writing that made the difference. The wittiness also runs through the lyrics of the songs, in particular, “Coolin’ with Da Homies”.
Something that made The Story of Fire Saga more authentic for British viewers was the inclusion of Graham Norton. A quarter of Britons said that the main reason they watch Eurovision is the amusing commentary provided by Graham. He is not as cutting as he is in the real show but it was still good to see him included.
The middle of the movie lags. I felt it could have been more compact, so that people don’t get bored halfway through. They definitely needed a more diverse cast as contestants of colour were only involved in the Song-A-Long. This shows that although people of colour are represented in Eurovision, they were not represented in this movie. Also, it is weird that a Eurovision movie has been made by Americans because it is one of the few things that the USA is not involved in. It is disappointing that almost all the lead parts are played by non-Europeans.
Overall The Story of Fire Saga will not be loved by the critics because it is not that style of movie. But that was not what it was intended for. It was intended to entertain the masses like Eurovision does every year. And it does just that!
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is streaming on Netflix now
Featured image via comingsoon.net