Watching a lighthearted comedy like Eurovision, especially during these difficult times, can serve as much needed food for the soul. This fatuous yet uplifting film set in Iceland has wacky Will Ferrell (Lars Erickssong) and the ever-so-lovely Canadian actress Rachael McAdams (Sigrit Ericksdottir) battling it out to qualify for a chance to have their band Fire Saga perform at Eurovision, a talent contest of Europe’s best. The only problem is their act is awful as it is fraught with ongoing unpredictable snags that always end up yielding the worst results. Needless to say the odds are against Lars and Sigrit ever becoming their nation’s official entry, and with so many countries competing overall, a grand win is even less likely. Regardless, this accident-prone duet lets nothing block their shot at glory or their aim at being the top-pick in their homeland and across the continent.
Although this story is fictional, Eurovision is a real-life annual international song competition hosted by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Originating in 1956, participating countries each select one lucky resident as a representative to submit an original song to be performed live on TV/Radio with citizens from participating countries casting votes to crown a winner. So how does this entertainment extravaganza become central to the plot? The film opens with a young motherless shy Lars unwilling to socialize at a household family gathering until he hears ABBA playing on TV. Hearing this music triggers a Europop frenzy in young Lars that grows into a lifelong fame-seeking quest, with a similar effect experienced by Lars young speech-inhibited neighbor friend Sigrit, who later becomes his ‘Dancing Queen’ so to speak. The movie’s running joke from start to finish is the suggestion that Sigrit may be Lars’ half-sister given his father’s promiscuous ways (played by Pierce Brosnan), and the fact that Iceland is such an isolated locale resulting in limited bed partners. It’s kind of a creepy though funny gag, but it works because the couple is so lovably pathetic. Therefore instead of the audience being revolted by the prospect of their possible siblinghood; viewers are hoping they are not blood related so their flame can eventually flicker.
That said, the film plays on the actual generalized personality traits of Icelanders, who are typically very sweet helpful people yet very serious with matter-of-fact dispositions, so audiences don’t really laugh at this disastrous duo but with them. Which brings us to Icelanders’ belief in elves, trolls, and other hidden beings. It’s true that the majority of Icelandic people believe elves/trolls exist. Even going as far as to reroute construction sites including redirecting roadworks as not to upset the elves. How adorable. Of course this movie doesn’t miss out on the opportunity to play up this superstition, and it’s quite endearing I might add. A note to the wise – ‘respect the elves or else’. If you don’t you might find yourself saying, “The elves have gone too far!”
As I have mentioned time and time again, every movie, no matter how silly or pointless, has a life-lesson to convey and this film is no different. One might think the ultimate take-away is finding one’s personal identity, or to never give up despite the probability of not succeeding or perhaps to always follow one’s dreams regardless of the naysayers. Of course these are no doubt worthy lessons to impart, however the main message of this film is more about serendipity (i.e. finding something wonderfully precious when in fact looking for something else). Kismet vs. Luck – the goals we seek do not always bring the happiness we image. ‘Sometimes the best things in life are unexpected.’ – Faith Sullivan. Ain’t that the truth.
P.S. I have visited Iceland and it is truly one of the most remarkable life altering, life affirming, breath-taking natural landscapes I have ever seen. Not to mention Icelanders have such enchanting mannerisms, including their elf folklore. Of course I couldn’t leave this place without a priceless pair of ceramic elves in-hand, as a souvenir to remind me of my fabulous experience. I think in part, this is why I liked this zany film (thanks doc Nicole for recommending it), and I particularly liked how the picture showcased a lot of Iceland’s unique natural and cultural qualities including its Elf Culture. Be sure to put Iceland on your bucket-list if you haven’t already been. FYI in normal times direct flights are offered from Edmonton to Reykjavik. I didn’t travel via this route but how convenient for us Albertans to be just one flight away from this magical land!