The French’s analysis of love continues with Emmanuelle Bercot’s Backstage. At first glance the film might seem like it was inspired by Eminem’s “Stan” as it concerns an obsessive relationship sprung up by mistake between a fangirl and a celebrity. Where love comes in is when Bercot’s film examines the reason these people turn to such a psychologically harmful relationship in the first place. Bercot seems to argue that the main reason is the lack of appreciation that the respective characters receive. While that is an easy argument for the non-celebrity, Bercot’s revealing portrait of a celebrity’s closed-up lifestyle in relation to not only fans, but also to close relatives is cliched, but still tragic in proportion.
It is interesting to note what my pre-conceived notions of the film were formed only by knowing its title. The title Backstage hearkens to numerous comedies or dramedys about the goings-on behind the scenes of a given production. These films frequently include exaggerated depictions of celebrity characters that make them out to be kooky, to say the least. The title of Backstage therefore, acts as a double-edged sword. Because of the uninformed public’s wrongful association of the title with movies of a silly and somewhat asinine nature, this film will be viewed less than its producers would like it to be. On the other hand, the people who do see this film will be surprised by the fact that there isn’t a laugh to be found in this tale of obsession and control in a relationship that was never meant to be.
Lucie (Islid Le Besco) absolutely adores Lauren Waks (Emmanuelle Seigner) – a pop star whose posters and pictures cover the walls of Lucie’s room whose song lyrics are entrenched into Lucie’s brain, and whose strength attracts Lucie in a way that not even she expects. All of Lucie’s dreams come true when her and Lauren actually meet and develop a relationship, one that leads both of them on paths of psychological and physical destruction. It does not feel like a mere coincidence that in today’s stalker-crazy world, a film like this is being released, as it depicts an obsessive fan’s dream turning into a nightmare as it comes true. As the two characters get closer in both their emotional and physical relationship, their lives are being decimated in tragic scene after tragic scene.
That isn’t to say that the two people depicted here do not love each other. It is one of Bercot’s goals to show that they do, and to also show how dangerous their misbegotten love can be. Backstage is not a film for romantics and it does act as a great conversation piece after the viewing, because of its anti-romanticism. The film’s script condemns these people’s actions which seem to be solely based on their passion towards each other, and the brief (really brief) rays of hope the film offers come at a time when the characters are apart – either not on the same page, or are physically away from each other. Comparisons to films like Gia, My Summer of Love, and even All About Eve can be made fairly since this picture contains similar themes throughout.
So why the low rating for such a surprisingly dark film? The question is a simple one that has a difficult answer. The biggest problem with this film is its script. The script works almost mechanically to get a message across, and the important scenes work well, but in a two hour running time, that isn’t enough. One wonders why Bercot included so much filler in her film that considerably softens the blow the emotional scenes are trying to produce. None of the scenes that involve all the side characters add anything that helps move the film along, and the dark paths it portrays almost seem to be glossed over and feel like they are not in the center of the film’s story, even though that is what the film is about, as it is found out in the very end.
Technically, the film is also a botched job, especially the production design. This French film looks tacky even when compared to other French films which are known for their over-zealous production values. The cinematography is inappropriately stale and the score is instantly forgettable. The costumes design is silly and the actors are forced to dress out of character. Still, they do a great job of battling their below average surroundings and their acting almost surpasses them. It can be difficult to act out a relationship like theirs, but like the guys in Brokeback Mountain, the girls in Backstage have no problem making this believable, even if it is really over-the-top.
Overall, this film is a glossy version of better and more hard-hitting films like Gia. It’s failures, unfortunately overpower its positives and the film ends up not being worth the viewer’s time and money. I love Bercot’s message as it is a needed one these days, and her rebellion against love is new for French cinema. I recommend this film to people who want a film that challenges some ideals, but I hope they don’t hold their breath for some real hard-hitting imagery, as the film is plagued by unneeded filler and a tacky look.