Seduced by the glitter, suffering at celebrity's shrine

Times Staff Writer

An obsessive fan worms her way into the life of a pop star in "Backstage," which could be characterized as a contemporary take on "All About Eve," only French, and with a more self-sacrificing ingenue.

Emmanuelle Bercot's film features a platinum-blond Emmanuelle Seigner as the mercurial Lauren Waks, a diva who looks like Deborah Harry, sings like Vanessa Paradis and inspires fans to gather on the street in front of her hotel and yowl like a late-'80s Madonna.

Suburban teenager Lucie (Isild le Besco) lives in the country with her dopey mother, Marie-Line (Edith LeMerdy), and her 4-year-old half-brother, Dylan. One day, she comes home to find herself in a scenario clumsily orchestrated by Marie-Line and Lauren's manager, Seymour (Valery Zeitoun). They're filming a show called "Backstage," in which a star surprises her biggest fan at home. Overwhelmed, Lucie flees to her bedroom and refuses to come out until everyone has left. Almost as quickly, she leaves for Paris in search of her idol.

The relationship is initially enabled by Lauren's assistant Juliette (the wonderful Noemie Lvovsky), who has been with Lauren for nine years and has a thorough understanding of the love-hate thing, and bodyguard Jean-Claude (Jean-Paul Walle Wa Wana). Along with Seymour and the occasional hotel maid, the entourage seems at times more like the addled court of a mad ruler condemned to permanent isolation in a high tower.

Recently dumped by her boyfriend (Samuel Benchetrit), Lauren adopts Lucie as her own obsessed live-in groupie. The self-obliterating Lucie lives to worship; the pale, ghost-like Lauren wants nothing but to be worshipped.

The relationship between the needy, self-obsessed star and the needy, histrionic fan is portrayed here (probably rightly) as something like the relationship between a desperate vampire and a poisoned neck. You tend to feel they deserve each other.

As a take on celebrity as religious mass derangement, "Backstage" is nominally interesting. As a study of two characters, it's not very convincing.

Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Exclusively at Landmark's Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A. (310) 281-8223.

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