I really hadn’t intended to watch this movie. Honestly, I’ve hardly been able to watch any movie without the dog interrupting and whining for attention. But I do still watch movie review shows on YouTube, and as I was watching the John Campea show, he raved about “Husavik,” the final song from Eurovision. I decided to check it out. The song was pretty. I started watching other YouTube videos of Eurovision songs. Then I got curious. Eurovision was out on Netflix, it was free, and it was not a movie that required my undivided attention. At last, I decided to check it out.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a light comedy about Lars and Sigrit, a singing duo that go by the name Fire Saga who hail from a small town in Iceland. Lars (Will Ferrell) dreams of winning the Eurovision song contest in Europe and proving himself to his father. Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) supports his ambitions but would prefer to marry Lars and live a simple life in their hometown. When they find themselves unexpectedly representing Iceland in the Eurovision Song Contest, Sigrit meet a flirtatious Russian singer named Alexander Lemtov (Dan Stevens) who encourages her to find her voice. But Lars’ jealousy and ambition cause cracks to form in the group and may just cost Fire Saga their chance at winning.
As I said, I watched the movie mostly because of the songs, which are really catchy and surprisingly good. I ended up grooving to “Double Trouble,” Fire Saga’s official entry into the Eurovision Contest. I wanted a full version of “Volcano Man.” And even though Alexander Lemtov’s “Lion of Love” has some of the cheesiest, cringiest lyrics, I can’t stop listening to it, because let me tell you, the man can sing. Sprinkled in are glimpses of other country’s entries, and they sound like real songs you’d hear on the radio. I know it’s a comedy, but the only reflection of that genre are a couple of silly lyrics and a vague 80s or 90s over-the-top vibe. I’m no music critic, but I fell in love with the songs and binged on them hard.
But what was the movie like?
I found Eurovision amusing and pleasant. It was set in a world where you knew that nothing too horrible could ever happen, and that was nice. I enjoyed the fluffy escapism. I didn’t find it laugh-out-loud funny, but I grinned at a few gags involving a gaggle of American tourists, a bit of dark humor with a ghost, and some elves who may or may not have been extreme in their measures to ensure the couple got to Eurovision. There were some crude instances of sexual humor that I didn’t find funny, but these were few and far between.
For me, Eurovision was at its most sweet and heart-warming when it told the tale of a small town girl who finds her voice on the big stage. I connected to Rachel McAdam’s Sigrit early on, in a scene where she brings biscuits and alcohol to cute little houses in the green hills, where the elves live. Sigrit asks the elves to help them get into the Eurovision song contest, so that Lars can fulfill his ambition and they can hopefully have a life together. She is so earnest and adorable… and who doesn’t love elves? She won me over, and I was rooting for her.
Alexander Lemtov also won me over. He initially appears to be kind of rich charming lowlife that nice girls are told to avoid. He struts and prances in an overtly sexual dance and pours the charm on Sigrit. Clearly, he must want something from her. But, no, he winds up being one of the most supportive and genuinely good-hearted characters in the movie. Most of his conversations with Sigrit revolves around her finding her voice. A twist at the end makes Alexander almost tragic, as you realize that, for all that he encourages Sigrit to be authentic, he, himself, cannot be.
Lars, on the other hand, I did not connect with and found myself mostly ignoring. While I felt that Rachel McAdams was doing her best to charm everyone and Dan Stevens was having fun, Will Farrell just seemed to be… there. He takes on the persona of a sad clown. I think we were supposed to connect with Lars out of pity, since the first act is nothing but Lars being dumped on and laughed at. But pity alone is hard to sustain; a character also needs some good or aspirational quality to invite you to root for them. Lars’s best quality is supposed to be that he’s a dreamer, yet when you examine his dream, it turns out to be self-centered and surprisingly hollow. I didn’t hate him, but I didn’t care about him, so most of the time, I just tuned him out.
A major part of the plot of Eurovision is the love story between Sigrit and Lars. You are supposed to root for them to be together. But even from the beginning, I found that hard to do. There is such a mismatch between them. Sigrit is beautiful, talented, kind, brave, strong, and emotionally mature. Lars is… ambitious? It’s implied he writes the songs and those are good. He… um… well…. Yeah, why does Sigrit have such a huge crush on him? Is it just because they were childhood friends?
It is possible to have a romantic mismatch, and still root for the characters to fall in love. But Lars, as a love interest, brought nothing to the table. And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, in the middle of the movie, he had such an epic fail as an artist, as a potential lover, even as a friend, that if I were Sigrit, I would have walked away and never looked back.
The scene where I completely checked out on Lars came at the middle of the Eurovision contest. He and Sigrit are performing “Double Trouble,” and at first it’s going well. But technical issues involving a long scarf and a giant hamster wheel cause chaos to erupt. The duo, however, plow through the chaos and finish their song. They are greeted (rather unrealistically) with silence and a few echoing laughs.
I don’t blame Lars for the technical issues; in fact, it was very admirable for the two to finish their song. Any decent audience would have erupted into cheers. No, the problem came afterwards. Lars throws a fit and decides he’s going home without even waiting for their scores. Sigrit, on the other hand, is determined to go back inside and finish what they've started. She delivers a beautiful speech about how, even if she didn’t get a single vote, she knew her own worth. I was touched. Sigrit, for all that she’d been dragged into this competition, really had the heart of a true artist.
Sigrit asks Lars to go back with her. She begs him. Lars refuses. He throws over some trashcans and hightails it to the airport. Eurovision was his dream, but he can’t even see it through. Instead, he abandons his friend to face the judgment alone. Sigrit goes back to a crowd of pitying stares and holds her head high in an empty box.
And who should come by to support her? Alexander. He asks about Lars, and when Sigrit tells him he left, he sits with her. He holds her hand, he comforts her, and he tries to cheer her up. And I’m telling you, for me, this was the most romantic part of the whole movie. Grand gestures are overrated; in the end, you really just want someone to be with you when you’re having a bad day. Lars, a man Sigrit knew and supported her whole life, couldn’t do this for her. Alexander, a stranger she knew for less than a week, could.
At this point, if I were Sigrit, I’d have dumped Lars. Even if Alexander might not be the ideal romantic partner (for various reasons), I’d have realized that I could do so much better, that I deserved better. I would stop putting all my energy into pursuing the dreams of a man who couldn’t even fight for what he wants. And I would look for friends who actually had my back, not people who used me for my talent and then ditched me when things got hard.
But this is a Will Farrell movie, so that wasn’t going to happen. Lars goes home and gets a pep talk from his dad (ironically about how Lars never gave up, even though Lars just epically gave up). Having magically won his father’s approval, Lars finds the strength to do what he should have done from the start: show up to the contest and let Sigrit shine. It’s treated like a heroic, romantic moment, but for me, it’s too little, too late. The trust is broken.
However, Sigrit is finally allowed to sing her song and express what’s in her heart. In the end, she fulfills her original dream: she and Lars are married and singing together in their hometown. So I guess it’s a happy ending. Again, I think Sigrit could have done better, but if that’s what she wants, then fine. I’m happy for you, girl.
To sum up, I liked Eurovision for the songs, for Sigrit’s journey toward being an artist, and for that one awesome moment when she faces judgment with her true friend beside her. Despite my ranting, I don’t hate Lars. I just feel like he didn’t try, no one tried to make him a character you could root for. There was a moment when Lars could have proved he deserved his dream… and instead, he threw it away.
Writer. Critic. Dreamer.