After coming together to watch a Eurovision-like contest, several friends from Tel Aviv compose a song together to help cheer up a recently divorced member of the group. To their surprise, they become Israel’s official entry in the next competition.
BRISBANE FILM FESTIVAL: A number of years ago, whilst channel-surfing in his hotel room during the Berlinale in the dead of winter, Israeli director Eytan Fox (The Bubble, Yossi & Jagger) stumbled across a show he used to idolise but hadn’t given a thought to in years: the Eurovision song contest.
Cupcakes has little on its mind other than sugary sentiment and bubbly bromide
'I didn’t know who was representing Israel," Fox told the Jerusalem Post, 'and I thought 'how could this be?’. And I started thinking about doing a movie about a bunch of neighbours who were good friends and wrote a song together."
The result is Cupcakes ('bananas" in the original Hebrew), a perky, freshly-scrubbed dramatic comedy musical that follows a clutch of perky, fresh-scrubbed young Jerusalemites as they write a perky, fresh-scrubbed song to cheery up a broken-hearted friend, only to see it be chosen to represent Israeli at the fictitious but entirely spot-on international competition UniverSong (in Paris, of course).
If the mates seem plucked from a particularly with-it wing of Central Casting, each serves a function in the none-too-deep scheme of things: baker Anat (Anat Waxman) has just learned her husband’s leaving her, whilst Efrat (Efrat Dor) is the frustrated gay songstress whose noodling morphs into the ditty perched to make them famous. Dana (Dana Ivgi) assists a cabinet minister and tries in vain to live up to the expectations of her conservative father, even as nursery school teacher Ofer (Ofer Schechter) frets his hummus-hustling boyfriend will never leave the closet behind and lawyer Yael (Yael Bar-Zohar) can’t get used to the corporate world and the moral conflict it brings.
Conflict, such as it is, comes in the form of some government nitwits who try to make the song, and the performance by the group now dubbed 'Cupcakes," gaudy even by Eurovision standards. This forces the crew to become closer than ever to realise their dream.
Steeped in a wistful nostalgia for a slower-paced society where neighbours actually knew each other and there was but a single television channel, Cupcakes creates a pastel-coloured world where friends are always there for each other and niceness wins the day.
Fans of the actual Eurovision contest will spot some sly, affectionate satirising of the event by Fox, who landed the actual 'Song Number Six,' which becomes 'A Song for Anat,' from Scissor Sisters multi-instrumentalist Scott 'Babydaddy' Hoffman, a friend of the director’s cousin.
'Each one of us deserves his own guilty pleasure," says one of this merry band early in the proceedings, and for some it will be this bright, featherweight concoction. Yet diabetics and all-around grumps are hereby warned: Cupcakes has little on its mind other than sugary sentiment and bubbly bromides. 'I wanted to make a feel-good movie," Fox said in that same interview, and that he certainly has.
Yet even he couldn’t avoid a political angle: 'I asked my mother why Israel was in Eurovision if we’re not in Europe, and she said 'were a small country surrounded by enemies.’" Had Fox dared to go there with Cupcakes, the film might have been a good bit more filling than it is.