Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"There's only so much room for deeper meaning in what is ultimately a light, fluffy concoction and all the more appealing for it."

For some people, the advent of spring means a change of wardrobe, a sudden urge to eat ice cream, and time to go walking in the park. For others, it means only one thing: it's almost time for Eurovision. If you're in the latter camp, this sweetly packaged, soft centred film from Israel is just what you'll need to keep you going until the night itself.

Anat (Anat Waxman), Ofer (Ofer Shechter), Yael (Yael Bar-Zohar), Efrat (Efrat Dor), Keren (Keren Berger) and Dana (Dana Ivgy), accidentally write a song one night after watching Universong, a thinly disguised version of Eurovision. They have all the key roles covered - Anat is the older one, Ofer the gay one, Yael the former Miss Israel, Efrat the alternative one, Keren the geeky one, and Dana the, um, political one. For Universong devotee Ofer it's a dream come true when they're picked to represent Israel. The only problem is, none of the women are too keen on the idea. His first challenge is to win them over.

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As Ofer goes about his work, it becomes clear that each of the women is faced with her own struggle. Anat has been abandoned by her husband (this s the event that inspired the song) and she may not be ready to face an event so strongly rooted in romance. Yael is struggling with her self image and a too-comfortable life in which she's sleeping with her boss. Efrat simply doesn't like that kind of music and is struggling to build a career playing her own songs, and Keren has confidence issues. Dana has conflicts centred on political ambition and the need to please her minister, and often resembles one of the hopeless younger characters from In The Loop, as she's accidentally wandered into the wrong film. On top of this, Ofer has the problem of a rich, straight-acting boyfriend who doesn't want them to be seen together. Interestingly, it's the boyfriend who ends up most uncomfortable about this, and this exemplifies the little tricks that scriptwriters Eli Bijaoui, Eytan Fox use to keep the film vibrant. In terms of the broad narrative, there is nothing here that is not predictable. There is, however, some impressively snappy dialogue and some thoughtful character work holding it together.

Equally snappy and well observed are the pop songs written for the film, mixed in with Israeli versions of some much-loved disco tunes. There are well designed costumes and some sly digs at homophobic governments, in keeping with Eurovision tradition. Things falter somewhat halfway through when the film shifts gears and starts looking for the True Meaning of Eurovision, something which seems to stem from the director's own misgivings about the direction the contest has taken in recent years, but it soon recovers its energy. There's only so much room for deeper meaning in what is ultimately a light, fluffy concoction and all the more appealing for it. It may not have a great deal of substance but it's strong on charm.

Reviewed on: 20 Apr 2014
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A group of neighbours accidentally find themselves chosen to represent Israel in the Universong Contest.
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Director: Eytan Fox

Writer: Eli Bijaoui, Eytan Fox

Starring: Efrat Dor, Dana Ivgy, Keren Berger, Ofer Shechter, Denis Sandler, Yael Bar-Zohar, Anat Waxman

Year: 2013

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Israel, France


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