We write about Eurovision a lot on BYT. So, when we realized that Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga was premiering on Netflix, instead of having one person review it, we decided to make it a group effort. The story itself is simple – two Icelandic small-towners, played by Will Ferrell and Rachel MacAdams spend their entire lives hoping to go to the fabled Eurovision Song Contest (for the uninitiated, take a gander of this walk down memory lane here). Then, somehow, through a series of mishaps and murders (by elves and otherwise), they end up in the land of sequins, lion dancers, hamster wheels and more. It is essentially a sports underdog movie, but with bad pop music, and actually, it is suprisingly ok. (which is the highest compliment one can give to a Will Ferrell sports underdog movie that is NOT Talladega Nights).
We discuss the pros and cons below, with Megan, a US born and raised Eurovision enthusiast and Svetlana, someone raised on the song contest this movie was inspired by, trade their thoughts. We hope it makes sense for you. If it doesn’t, that’s ok – neither does Eurovision really.
PRO TIP: pair the movie with drinks/CBD treats and follow it up with as many YouTube clips of past winners that you can find.
MB: First of all, IT WAS SO LONG. Like, to be fair, so is the Eurovision, but STILL. Too long in my opinion.
SL: I don’t know, I kind of felt it was just long enough to be a little uncomfortable – just like Eurovision. Overall, and I am only feeling medium guilty saying this: I kind of loved it. All Will Ferrell movies of this kind have been truly terrible, and I feel this was FINALLY a theme where his over-the-top sensibility has met his match.
MB: Also, I genuinely wonder if people from Iceland will find this funny or like, offensive. But it was filmed there with real people, right? Like the narrative thing feels mildly appropriative to me, but then also maybe someone from Reykjavik is like “WHERE IS YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR?!” But UGH when people do fake accents.
SL: The accent thing was so all over the place and was truly the only thing that worried me, but then also, ALL OF EUROVISION is appropriation – people singing in English, Swedish kids rapping about homies, numerous countries bastardizing traditions that are not their own…. the whole thing is a mess, but it is kind of an accepting mess (from a gender/sexuality/any form of identity perspective) – EVERYONE is welcome at Eurovision, as long as they are committed to the spirit of Eurovision.
MB: Also when I say appropriative I mainly feel that way since it’s American people who made the movie. (But maybe that also makes it genius in a way?)
SL: I think they actually weirdly did a good job of making it feel inclusive, and spotlighting A LOT of past Eurovision talent – waaaaaay more than I thought they would. Also, fwiw, it is mostly making fun of the white, privileged people in the process – and I think we can all handle that these days.
MB: YES, Eurovision contestants were involved! That whole singing scene at the big party, at first I was like “I HATE IT.” But then when I realized how many familiar faces there were I was like “I LOVE IT.”
SL: I will rewatch that scene at least 10 times over the weekend. THE BEST.
MB: I also wonder if people totally unfamiliar with the Eurovision will be more into this than I was. Or less into this than I was? Do people need context to get it? I feel like my personal familiarity made me more critical, because some of the caricatures felt like kind of bland just because of how bonkers the real Eurovision can be. I LOVE the cheesiness and the drama, to be clear, but I also feel like you can just get that from the REAL Eurovision.
SL: I truly cannot imagine watching this if you weren’t familiar with the phenomenon.
MB: ALSO on that note, I didn’t grow up with the Eurovision, whereas you did, so how does THAT affect this conversation?
SL: As a kid – Eurovision was, aside from the Academy Awards, the single most exciting evening of the year for me. I grew up in Yugoslavia and to quote this Eurovision-A Legacy article that I wrote (brimming with nostalgic love for the tradition) for BYT: “this spectacle of bad music and forced international relations is just part of my DNA. If you are from Europe (raise your hand now, with pride), YOU KNOW THAT EVERYONE YOU KNOW WEIRDLY CARES how high you score during all-important-all-Europe-TV-station-call in of scores. And while no one aside from small children and (very) old people finds the music at all enticing, I can probably sing a disproportionate amount of winning songs from the last two decades by heart.”
I think personally, it is just pure escapism, but also escapism that taught me a lot about both the multifaceted use of sequins AND acceptance, and the movie does a good job celebrating that. You can be a bearded lady from Germany and win Eurovision. You can be a Belarus hair metal band and win Eurovision. You can be a trans icon from Israel and win Eurovision. You can be a gender fluid anime character and win Eurovision. If the world took cues from it, the world would be a better place.
MB: 100% agree. FYI I did get weirdly emotional (like goosebumps emotional but maybe that’s also because I’m badly sunburned at the moment) when people start voting in the movie for Iceland after the disaster hamster wheel thing and Sigur Ros was playing.
SL: Oh yeah. It is ESSENTIALLY a sports movie and when they hit those underdog moments right, they hit them right.
MB: AND Rachel McAdams is great.
SL: A delight. I also felt Dan Stevens (aka cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey) CRUSHES it as the smarmy Russian. I haven’t been quite so intrigued by a tan in a really long time. And I loved that Demi Lovato and Miguel and whoever else just gamely participated.
MB: I liked that they focused on the full journey, because obviously Americans don’t have contestants involved, so I never go out of my way to follow what’s going on in other countries. Someone I recently interviewed from Sweden said that’s like the very best part, is the competition at home before it goes on to the final.
SL: Yeah, the national part is huge in the sense that it is that part that makes it feel like Olympics when it comes to the finals: you as a country chose someone to represent you, and you buy into it in this really intense way. I do think if you just watch this like you’d watch a cheesy sports movie, you’re in the right mindset for it.
MB: PS I laughed really hard when the boat exploded does that make me a terrible person.
What did you think? Do you have to get the Eurovision vibe to get Eurovision Song Contest: The Fire Saga Story? Do we universally love Rachel McAdams? Let us know!