Having its West Coast Premiere Saturday at the COLCOA (City of Lights, City of Angeles) French Film Festival was the darkly ironic, “Number One Fan” (“Elle L’adore”). Directed by Jeanne Herry and co-written by Herry and Gaelle Mace, “Number One Fan” was nominated for Best First Feature and Best Actress (for the wonderful Sandrine Kiberlain) at the 40th Cesar awards and is in competition again at COLCOA. The film explores the intertwining relationship that exists between idolizing fan, Muriel (Kiberlain) and her pop star Vincent (Laurent Lafitte). Of course the fact that it also revolves around a murder is but a hiccup between fan and star.
We meet Muriel at a coffee shop with her two teen children. Muriel is telling a story, something she does often. The story leans towards being a tall tale, with the “I can’t believe you really said that” type of outcome. Although for audiences it has a bit of a shock value, for Muriel’s kids, it’s just another story to which they half-listen.
As a divorcee, Muriel’s kids live with their father in the suburbs. However, Muriel lives in Paris and works as a beautician. But we quickly see that Muriel’s life passion is for French pop star Vincent Lacroix. She attends all his concerts and writes endless letters, and even Vincent’s manager and roadies know her by name. She’s not a crazy fan, just an adoring one.
So when Vincent shows up at her apartment one night after an “accident,” it with no hesitation that she offers to help him. After all they’re “friends.”
The audience may think they know what’s about to happen to poor, hapless Muriel, but director Herry builds this quirky fan fest into an ironic series of twists and turns mixed with moments of luck and misunderstandings. It’s certainly a fun ride, even as police detectives (Pascal Demolon and Olivia Cote) enter the scene to investigate. Not surprisingly, the two detectives also have their own messed up love lives to contend with.
Interested in exploring the world of a fan, Herry mentioned during Monday’s follow-up press day, her love of Fan-Artists movies such as “Misery” and “King of Comedy.” But unlike the fans in those two films, Herry noted that she wrote Muriel not as a pathetic or hysterical character, but rather an interesting and passionate human being. In fact, Herry’s fan is the heroine of the story.
Also impressive about “Number One Fan” is that the dynamic between pop star and fan is not clichéd. Vincent and Muriel each feed off the other in different ways. Perhaps this insightfulness is due to Herry’s upbringing herself. Herry grew up around the cult of celebrity – Herry is the daughter of French singing legend Julien Clerc and French award-winning actress Miou-Miou. So the characterizations between Vincent and Muriel are rich, even if at times they seem outlandish.
All in all, “Number One Fan” is a thrilling, yet comedic mystery that doubles as a smart exposé of everyday people and their celebrity crushes.