A logline is a Hollywood-speak equation used to pitch movies to simple-minded, artistically-disabled studio suits in shorthand so one doesn’t waste their energy and spirit trying to explain what one’s proposed project is really about. If one wants to get their project considered, one must reduce their artistic vision to a hybrid of two previously made movies; hopefully one can find two (three is pushing it) appropriate titles that made a lot of money.
I don’t mean to pull back the curtain and expose how the sausage is made -which is, coincidentally, part of this movie, frickandels, to be precise- but to help myself explain this unconventional, interesting comedy. This Dutch movie is best explained by referencing several familiar, American cultural touchstones.
Eva (Vivian Dierickx) is a forlorn, depressed Dutch teenager whose Lena Dunham-esque awkwardness goes unnoticed by her busy, dysfunctional family as well as her classmates- save the sweet-spirited South Park Timmy-like disabled student whose happiness despite her disability just fuels Eva’s misery.
The family does have dinner together every night, the father Evert (Ton Kas) talks about his day at the frickandel plant and son Emanuel (Abe Dijkman) is readying for the annual frickandel eating contest. When Eva announces that her class is arranging for a German exchange student to stay with the family for two weeks so as to improve both student’s English (?) skills, it is only the audience who hears.
In a bewildering twist, to the stupefaction of all her classmates, especially the bitchy-faced girls, Eva is paired with a hot Aryan god Veit (Raphael Gareisen). Eva is too far gone to enjoy her good fortune in fact, she seems embarrassed if not in agreement with this mistake of fate.
But Veit’s arrival in the Almodóvarian Van End household is destiny manifesting itself. Not only does he look like he should be in a boy band, his English is perfekt, he’s traveled all over the world, the third world no less, and he can improve the lives of everyone, not just the members of the Van End family. His largesse includes sending money to a poor child in Africa Ngiri (Nicanor Zinga) with whom he Skypes to check on his progress.
When Evert asks him about his assisting Ngiri, Veit answers “I really believe my help can make a difference, and isn’t that the most important thing in life, Evert, helping others?” It’s not a rhetorical question, and Evert should have not taken it as one, for he tries to be like Veit (remember “be like Mike?”), but learning is not a process of imitation.
Veit improves the lives of all the family members, and while Eva may be last in line, I was most impressed that his presence supplanted brother Erwin’s (Tomer Pawlicki) daily appointment with Houston Animal Cops.
While I found the movie surprisingly entertaining, it lacks the clean resolution of even the best American comedies of those I used for the logline. This might frustrate some of you, but now that you’ve been prepared, I recommend seeking this fun quirky movie.
SLIFF Screenings: Friday, November 15th, 8:30pm; Monday, November 18th, 2pm at Landmark Plaza Frontenac