Once More With Feeling
We live in an age of pantomimed reality shows, superficial pop acts and one-hit wonders that are chewed up by the music industry and spat out into obscurity. Given the sheer number of reality competitions out there and the thousands upon thousands that audition for them, this format has been reshaped and reformatted numerous times but remains just as popular now as it did back in 2000.
20 years on, Polish movie Fierce rocks onto Netflix this weekend with a decidedly satirical look at reality singing competitions. While this section is harmonized nicely, the rest of the film falls into predictable mediocrity and fails to really elevate the message it’s trying to convey.
At the heart of all this lies rebellious teenager Marta ‘Ostra’ Ostrowicz who watches in disdain as the popular reality series “Music Race” is about to hit their town. They’re looking for talented singers and among those in attendance will be head judge Olo; a one-hit wonder musician who’s angry and bitter at the world.
As fate would have it, Marta happens to be Olo’s daughter and thanks to a heated encounter with him at the auditions, she’s automatically thrown onto the live shows.
What follows is a film split into two, very predictable halves. The first depicts Marta performing on stage, trying her best to show up Olo and thaw his icy heart into submission. The second half sees Marta spiral down the exact same path Olo did, rebelling and lashing out against all those around her and living up to the apt title of the film, Fierce.
On paper, the screenplay is actually quite good and the satirical elements work well to show how staged and rehearsed reality competitions can be. This, of course, is projected across to the painfully archetypal characters that soon lose their charm given the lack of depth they’re given to work with.
You’ve got Ewa Dykty, a gimmicky judge who uses a hashtag before every statement. Joining her is Urszula Dudziak, the eccentric judge who plays up the Sharon Osbourne craziness while Olo is obviously supposed to mirror Simon Cowell.
This formulaic feel would be fine if it’s confined to Music Race but unfortunately this extends to almost everyone else in the film too. Marta’s character changes feel sudden and abrupt rather than natural. Her friends all predictably feel distanced from her, including her best friend, while Olo is arguably the only one here who does a pretty good job shaking off the Simon Cowell persona and delivering a more rounded character.
Breaking up the melodrama are numerous singing performances, complete with all the usual swinging camera movements and bright lights up on stage. It does work quite well here to balance out the picture but this eventually all crescendos into a rather predictable and obvious finish.
Fierce doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel but its jabs at an industry that’s become a parody of itself is certainly welcome. Beyond that, the rest of this musical drama does little to really step out and make itself heard in a cacophonous sea of similar melodies.