Backstage is probably a beautifully shot film, but I wouldn't know it, because the Tribeca Film Festival screened a terrible video dub for critics, full of black holes where contrast should have been, and topped off with a great big timecode window at the top of the screen. And there's probably a segment of the audience that, starved for indeliberate camp, is going to eat this up, what with its cheeky introduction of Adrian Lyne-style sexual hysterics to the social politics of All About Eve. Or is it Single White Female meets Notting Hill? Regardless, there's not a lot that's very original here, but there's certainly room for some good, cheesecakey fun.
The histrionics concern Lucie (Isild Le Besco), a sensitive problem teen with the kind of pushy, manipulative mom that you rarely see outside of 1930s films involving carnies. Mom (played by Édith Le Merdy) doesn't understand Lucie's obsession with a superstar named Lauren who, as played by Emmanuelle Seigner (AKA Mrs. Roman Polanski), is a dead visual ringer for Debbie Harry with a stage presence resembling something like Versace-era Courtney Love, who sings songs that sound like outtakes from Madonna's Ray of Light. I don't understand the attraction, either, but Mom is more sympathetic than me -- she arranges for Lauren to visit Lucie at home, via a trashy reality show called Backstage. Lucie is the type of fan who, apparently, "masturbates to (Lauren's) pictures" -- but when the star is in the flesh, in her home, she can do little but weep.
"Don't," Lauren tells
Super Fan 99, gesturing at the cameras. "Don't give them that." Before she leaves, Lucie slips Lauren a note,
and the next thing we know, the teenager has run off to Paris, where she promptly crashes Lauren's hotel room home and,
through the power of mutual desperation, gets put on the payroll as a professional hanger on. Once fully enmeshed in
Lauren's world, Lucie quickly discovers that the star is wallowing in depression, after having been dumped by a
fantastically handsome commoner (Samuel Benchetrit). It's only a
matter of time before the teenager sets to work hatching a scheme in the name of some kind of wacko revenge.
It's all quite fantastic, but that is, undoubtedly, part of the appeal. If taken seriously, I suppose Backstage would be considered as being about the horrific emotional lack that idols and their worshipers potentially have in common. Stars as monumentally needy as Lauren are a rare breed -- think Marilyn, Liz, or, well, not to belabor the point, but Courtney Love - and its easy to imagine those women taking a fan under their wing, simply out need for a new mouth to eat up their egomaniacal bullshit. But whilst there's no doubt that LeBesco and Seigner give themselves fully to their performances, the film is played at such a constant, highly-melodramatic pitch, that I often found the very commitment of the actresses to be little more than irritating. Backstage is good, campy fun -- I only wonder whether or not director Emmanuelle Bercot is striving for more.
But then, it's quite possible that I was simply distracted by that timecode box at the top of the screen.