Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox delivers a decided change of pace from his usual sensitive dramas like Yossi & Jagger and The Bubble with this frothy comedy in which a disparate group of Tel Aviv friends finds themselves entered into an international song competition. But while it offers some mildly frothy diversions, the Pedro Almodovar-styled Cupcakes lacks the cinematic nutrition to overcome its empty calories.
The group includes middle-aged baker Anat (Anat Waxman), whose husband has recently left her; gay schoolteacher Ofer (Ofer Shechter), who likes to entertain his kindergarten class by performing musical numbers in drag (try getting away with that in America); shy blogger Keren (Keren Berger), whose interactions with the world are primarily online; lesbian singer/songwriter Efrat (Efrat Dor), whose career is limited to coffee shops; former beauty pageant winner turner lawyer Yael (Yael Bar Zohar); and repressed Dana (Dana Ivgy), who works as an aide to a conservative female politician.
When they gather together for their ritual of watching the popular UniverSong competition–a thinly veiled parody of Eurovision–the friends attempt to cheer the depressed Anat up by launching into an impromptu musical number (written by Scissor Sistors’ Scott Hoffman, better known as “Babydaddy”).
Their exuberant performance is captured via a cellphone camera and soon goes viral (probably the most realistic element of the plot), with the quintet chosen to represent Israel in the upcoming edition of the music contest. Although Ofer, whose boyfriend is a closeted hummus entrepreneur, is eager to participate, the others are far more reluctant, worrying about the damage to their reputations.
Their fears soon prove founded as, much to their horror, they’re molded by the selection committee into a campy, garishly costumed, ABBA-style sextet. Will they manage to defy their overseers and stay true to their original vision? Did Mickey and Judy succeed in putting on a show?
While the screenplay co-written by Fox and Eli Bijaoui features some sly satirical touches, Cupcakes lacks the anarchical humor necessary to overcome its predictable elements. But it’s an undeniably likeable and sweet confection, featuring appealing characters and a color palette so brightly hued you practically need sunglasses to watch it. And who can entirely resist a movie whose end credits are accompanied by the song “Love Will Keep Us Together?”
Production: Abott Reif Hameiri, Bananot, Chic Films
Cast: Dana Ivgy, Keren Berger, Yael Bar-Zohar, Efrat Dor, Anat Waxman, Ofer Shechter, Lior Ashekenazi
Director: Eytan Fox
Screenwriters: Eytan Fox, Eli Bijaoui
Producers: Marco Cherqui Lauranne Bourrachot
Director of photography: Daniel Schneor
Production designer: Arad Sawat
Editor: Ron Omer
Composer: Haim Frank Ilfman
Casting: Yael Aviv
No rating, 100 min.