Cupcakes Review

Cupcakes. Perhaps no title could better describe this film. Sweet, simple, and colourful, this feel-good comedy follows six neighbours who unexpectedly come to represent Israel in a Eurovision-like contest. And in preparing for this contest, each neighbour abandons all reservations in a journey to self-acceptance.

The movie opens to ‘Love Will Keep Us Together,’ introducing each character: Efrat the alternative musician, Anat the baker, Dana the aspiring civil servant, Yael the beauty-queen-cum-lawyer, Keren the blogger, and Ofer the teacher. All are women but Ofer, who is a gay man more comfortable in his own skin than any of his neighbours is in hers. His introduction ends the opening sequence as he, wearing sequins and an ABBA-like wig, mimes the Captain and Tennille hit for his students.

The six neighbours soon come together to watch Unisong, a Eurovision-like contest on a global scale. The first entry is from Israel and is an all-too-trendy rap song. While all are disappointed with the showing, Anat seems particularly upset. Her husband had left her only moments before she joined the Unisong watch party. To comfort her friend, Efrat leads the other neighbours in an impromptu serenade. Ofer records the tender, guitar-based performance that stands in such contrast to the Unisong entry.

Ofer later submits the recording to the Israeli Unisong selection committee. The committee chooses the song for the next competition. Each neighbour learns of the result by word-of-mouth, none but Ofer knowing their song had even been recorded.

The film then follows each neighbour as she struggles with her insecurity in participating in Unisong. Efrat fears the pop-induced dilution of her musical integrity. Anat worries that she will look foolish in front of her children. Dana faces the disapproval of her serious, devout father. Yael looks to protect her professional reputation. And Keren risks losing the anonymity she had enjoyed as a blogger.

Ofer is again a foil to his neighbours. Celebrity causes Ofer no dilemma but rather prompts his still closeted boyfriend to become more open about their relationship.

The neighbours overcome their individual worries to compete at Unisong under the name Anat’s Bakery. They resist handlers’ attempts to make their song an overwrought dance number and instead find success on their own terms.

Lest Cupcakes be accused of having no bite, director Eytan Fox also ably parodies both entertainment-and government-types. The sleazy handlers assigned to the Anat’s Bakery provide easy targets. For example, the publicist assigned to the band comments on the diversity of the group but wishes it also included an Arab.

The minister of culture receives similar treatment. Anchored by no conviction, she criticizes Anat’s Bakery but later supports the band at Unisong. She of course has a documentary crew in tow. The minister further reveals her fickleness when she orders the crew not to film her breakfast with the band because the table is not kosher. After the crew leaves, the minister asks for the pork to be passed.

While tropes abound, Fox employs convention purposefully. He does not depend on cliché because he lacks ability. He instead relies on plot familiarity to engage his audience. He creates a relatable story that, through nostalgia and kitsch, shows how something simple can be beautiful.

One could easily compare Cupcakes to any Almodóvar’s comedy, given the playful, camp qualities of each. Similarly, one could draw parallels between Cupcakes and Ozon’s 8 Women and Potiche. While Ozon may have created more culturally subversive films, he and Fox both depend on decades past to craft tone. And while Fox may have a more straightforward narrative style, the same tongue-in-cheek quirkiness that defines 8 Women and Potiche may be found in Cupcakes.

A departure from Fox’s more serious Yossi & Jagger, Cupcakes provokes laughter from the first frame. It capitalizes on convention, fusing a familiar story with campy nostalgia. While perhaps not a tediously crafted gourmet dessert, Cupcakes would be less a movie if there were complication. After all, comfort food is anything but fussy.

Cupcakes is in select cinemas 25 April and is on DVD and On-Demand 12 May.

About The Author

Stuart graduated with honors from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied political science and public relations. Soon to complete an MA in Cultural and Creative Industries at King's College London, he begins law school this fall at the University of Southern California.

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