Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Eytan Fox's Israeli mainstream musical treat, CUPCAKES, hits the USA. Prepare to smile.

Something new and decidedly delightful from Eytan Fox -- the Israeli moviemaker who has given us Yossi & Jagger, Walk on Water, The Bubble and more -- CUPCAKES is a musical comedy about a lot of things, authenticity chief among them. Is Mr. Fox's movie itself authentic? I think so, for it does not pretend to be any deeper than a sweet, mainstream-accessible tale of music, song, love and work amongst an ensemble of a half-dozen lead characters and their friends, lovers and co-workers.

The movie succeeds quite beautifully in engaging our interest and then making good on its promise of enjoyment and fun. And Fox, shown above, has created a bouncy, colorful, array of characters and scenes that build inexorably (though not necessarily predictably) toward a terrific feel-good finale of music, romance, and yes, authenticity.

The story proceeds smartly and economically from the introduction, one by one, of all the characters, shown at their work -- school-teaching, baking (those titular cupcakes), lawyering, writing, singing, and assisting one of the country's leading political ministers. Very quickly, important events occur, as our baker (Anat, above) -- an older woman with a younger husband who suddenly splits -- spills out her grief to her friends.

On the spot our singer/songwriter comes up with a sweet and simple little ditty that the others join in creating and singing, in order to cheer up their sad companion. Very soon a song is born. This song is authentic, and so are the feelings that engendered it, but what happens to the song as it becomes better known is anything but. This situation makes up the meat of the movie (or maybe, considering our baker and her wares, I ought to say the batter of the film).

Culture, mores, "professionalism" -- along with the meat grinder through which everything musical must be processed these days -- rear their heads and create havoc for our simple little song, as well as for and to the various love stories, straight and gay, that engage our characters.

Filmed in Israel, and then -- surprise! -- in Paris, where we and our cast meet the ineffably French actor, comic and filmmaker Edouard Baer, who gives this already buoyant movie an extra lift, Cupcakes proves as sweet and sugary as can be. But we're talking authentic sugar -- none of that synthetic shit!

The cast could hardly be bettered: They're all attractive, energetic performers who nail their characters quickly and then allow us to go with them wherever they decide to travel. From left to right, above, are shown Dana Ivgy (lately of Zero Motivation), Yael Bar-Zohar, Anat Waxman, Keren Berger, Ofer Shechter and Efrat Dor.

In the fine supporting cast are stalwarts such as Lior Ashkenazi (above, left, with Ms Bar-Zohar), and Sarit Vino-Elad as that peripatetic minister.

Lasting but 92 minutes, the movie is as bright, funny, charming and economical as you could wish. And, yes, you'll get to hear that wonderful song again, this time done right. Best of all is the filmmaker's nod, at the finale, to that fine French film The Baker's Wife. Here, however -- hooray for feminism -- you might better call it The Baker's Husband.

Cupcakes, via Strand Releasing, opens this Friday, March 27, in New York City at the Quad Cinema, and the following week in Los Angeles on April 3 at Laemmle's Music Hall 3.

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