The generic nature of international pop songs, pop stars and “American Idol” TV shows is the been-there/voted-him-out subtext of “Fierce,” a Polish dramedy about a teen who competes in a singing competition to get back at the father who ran out on her mother before she was born.
Skinny young things who can sing on key (more or less) are a universal commodity — apparently. The language they sing in is less important than the skin they flash and the runway-ready look they put out there.
“Fierce” doesn’t give us much of the context that its “Music Race” TV show thrives in, because it doesn’t need to. Such shows are a smash around the globe because of the formula that Simon Cowell perfected. Singers give their all, the “right” ones are pre-destined for glory and those deemed unworthy are trashed by The Hanging Judge on the three-judge panel — humiliated.
On “Music Race,” that’s one-hit-wonder Olo, played with the attendant surly superiority necessary by Maciej Zakoscielny.
“You’re all WET,” he taunts each loser, whereupon a watery deluge is dumped on the sad runner-up on live TV.
But years ago, before his one-hit, he was just another boy with a girlfriend back in the village of Rozalin. And now, the smart-ass/conflict-seeking producer of “Music Race” (Tomasz Karolak) has decreed that they’ll take the show to his “hometown” on a talent hunt. And Olo is irked. With reason.
Marta (Katarzyna Sawczuk) grew up knowing who Mom (Anita Sokolowska) always maintained was her father — her high school love. Now’s their chance to confirm this, at least have the satisfaction of telling Olo off, maybe on TV.
But when that doesn’t go according to plan, Marta, an ill-tempered would-be Goth who goes by “Fierce,” has to enter the competition just to get close to and to “humiliate” him the way he’s humiliated her and her mother.
The players are probably better than the soppy script they’re forced to muddle through. Hard to tell, though. Leaning so heavily on the show within the movie turns the film into a “Poland’s Got Talent” episode. Not sure who wants to see that, even though Sawczuk is a winsome presence with a pleasant-but-thin singing voice.
Teasing that single solitary idea out for nearly two hours takes some doing. The script manages this by diverting most of the attention away from Fierce, her mom and the kid (Adrian Majewski) who is sweet on her. So we see the sordid drama of Olo’s life, a loveless love affair with PR benefits with co-judge singer/social media influencer Ewa (Julia Kaminska), the spirited manipulations of the producer and the lame only-one-singer-performs “competition” segments.
As the contest goes on and Olo and Ewa try to sabotage her, Marta/Fierce becomes a viral sensation. Shockingly.
How will all this play out? Unamusingly, unsurprisingly and sentimentally.
You don’t need 30 minutes to figure this out, much less 118.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, profanity and sexuality
Cast: Katarzyna Sawczuk, Maciej Zakoscielny, Julia Kaminska, Anita Sokolowska, Tomasz Karolak, Adrian Majewski, Urszula Dudkiak
Credits: Directed by Anna Wieczur-Bluszcz, script by Piotr Jasek, Julia Kaminiska, Wojciech Nerkowski. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:58