2006, Movie, NR, 115 mins


The line separating "fan" from "fanatic" has never seemed as thin or as permeable as it does in this harrowing, and at times surprisingly humorous, case study from actress-turned-director Emmanuelle Bercot. The catalyst for all the psychodrama is "Backstage," an Ultimate Fanatic-style French television show that thrills fans by surprising them at home with a film crew and a private performance by their favorite pop idol. In this case, the reluctant star is Lauren Waks (Emmanuelle Seigner), an icy blonde whose Euro-pop stylings drive the French kids wild. Lauren's biggest fan might just be Lucie (Isild Le Besco), a suburban teenager who's been picked to appear on "Backstage." Lucie's big, televised moment, however, proves to be more trauma than treat: When Lauren comes gliding across her backyard and into her house like an angelic vision in white, lip-synching a schmaltzy love song to Lucie and Lucie alone, it's too much for the poor girl to take. Transfixed like a deer in headlights during the serenade, Lucie then bursts into tears and locks herself in her bedroom, bringing the show to an abrupt end. When Lauren says her goodbyes, adding that she hopes they will one day meet again, Lucie takes her words dangerously to heart. The next day, Lucie skips school and hitchhikes to Paris, where she joins in the handful of other fans staked out in front of Lauren's hotel. After a night spent on a park bench, Lucie slips past security and creates such a scene that Lauren's assistant (Noemi Lvovsky) agrees to give her five minutes with the pop goddess. But instead of the ice queen she's adored from afar, Lucie finds a lonely, emotionally exhausted woman who feels trapped by her image and is actually frightened of her fans. Recently dumped by her boyfriend, Daniel (Samuel Benchetrit), and now refusing to sing, bisexual Lauren clings to Lucie's blind idolatry for emotional support, and Lauren's manager (Valery Zeitoun) agrees to tolerate Lucie's creepy presence if it means the star will pull herself together enough to perform. At first the arrangement seems to be mutually beneficial — Lauren even works out a financial arrangement with Lucie's mother (Edith Le Merdy) — but soon Lucie begins to lose any sense of herself, first taking Lauren's place at the apartment she once shared with Daniel, then taking up with Daniel himself. Pitched somewhere between PERSONA, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE and ALL ABOUT EVE, Bercot's film is an excoriating examination of the bizarre, symbiotic relationship between fans who love their idols through their popular image, demanding attention in return, and the stars who simultaneously need, fear and despise these ardent admirers. It'll come as no surprise to any one who has seen GIRLS CAN'T SWIM and Benoit Jacquot's SADE and A TOUT DE SUITE that Le Besco is one of the most powerful young French actresses working today, and here she gives another raw performance that's almost too painful to watch. The real fun of the piece, however, is Seigner, who plays the downhill diva to the hilt, throwing cell phones and tantrums that would put Naomi Campbell to shame. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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