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Award-winning filmmaker Dome Karukoski brings to screen the life and work of artist Touko Valio Laaksonen (aka Tom of Finland), one of the most influential and celebrated figures of twentieth century gay culture.
Seumas F. Sargent,
At the time of its release, 'Tyttö sinä olet tähti' was considered an event in the small world of Finnish cinema. Dome Karukoski, the then-unknown young director was praised both for the movie's refreshing and contemporary look, and for the well-constructed and coherent storytelling. Some critics went even as far as dubbing it "the best Finnish movie ever made!" - which I personally consider a major overstatement. The movie does have its merits, but overall it's simply a harmless, yet a very commercial and a hopelessly mediocre film with nothing new to it, except a) it's a Finnish movie portraying the urban youth of contemporary Finland - a refreshing oddity in a field of cinema dominated by movies about the everyday problems of disillusioned thirty-somethings - and b) the use of r'n'b/hip hop music - a genre of music rarely seen or heard in Finnish cinema - on the soundtrack and as an essential part of the story.
The movie tells the story of young Nelli (Pamela Tola) - a classic, beautiful "good girl" from a wealthy family - who dreams of becoming an r'n'b singer, although her family expects her to pursue a career in law instead. To realize her dream, Nelli teams up with Sune (Samuli Vauramo) - a member of a semi-underground hip-hip group, who initially refuses both Nelli, whose taste of music he deems too commercial, and a record deal with a major music label to stay true to his artistic vision and street cred. Eventually, though, a fruitful professional, as well as a budding romantic, relationship occurs between Nelli and Sune, who spend their summer together composing and recording tracks for Nelli's demo album. But alas, love between the two could-be lovers seems impossible, because Nelli already has a serious boyfriend, and her parents are thrilled by neither Sune, nor the idea of Nelli abandoning a steady future for a potential career in music.
So basically, this is light romantic teen drama/comedy by numbers. The plot is just about as basic as it gets from its overused scenario all the way down to its predictable plot twists (= good girl meets a bad boy, obstacles stand in the way of their unexpected love, blah blah blah, and the viewer starts contemplating suicide), and there isn't even a proper gimmick to the film to jazz the clichés up a little bit - apart from the fact that the story takes place in Finland instead of the USA. Many of the much-hyped aspects of this movie - such as the refreshingly natural dialogue, the portrayal of the r'n'b/hip hop scene of Finland, and the coherence of the plot - only pass as something noteworthy when judged by the standards of commercial Finnish cinema (as it was by the time of the movie's premiere). Compared to other recent domestic hits, 'Tyttö sinä olet tähti' was an original, high-quality film - which says much, much more about the quality of commercial Finnish cinema of the time than about the quality of the film itself. Taken out of the aforementioned context, it's just mediocre, clichéd and kind of boring as well.
Nevertheless, the movie is not completely without charm. Much of it owes to the modest charisma of the young stars Pamela Tola and Samuli Vauramo, who both bring delightful warmth to the simple characters they play, making their subtle on-screen romance likable enough to keep the viewer emotionally invested in it, despite its unoriginality. Also, even though the movie follows religiously the conventions of Hollywood cinema, the general feel of the film is genuine enough not to give you the impression that the movie is vaguely trying to imitate life as it's portrayed in commercial American movies - a common mistake a lot of commercial Finnish movies seem to make ('Saippuaprinssi', I'm looking at you!) - instead of vaguely trying to imitate life itself. But it's still just not enough - certainly not enough of an excuse for telling a story that has been told a thousand times before without bringing anything new and original to it.
'Tyttö sinä olet tähti' is a harmless little film which is bound to entertain the casual (and bored) viewer, but I still don't think that it deserves half of the credit it was showered with when it was released. It's not exactly a crime against mankind, but it's tremendously commercial, unimaginative, and predictable - which is ironic, because the "bad guys" of this movie are the greedy pigs of the commercial record label who try to force all the originality out of Sune and Nelli to make them appeal to the masses. Personally, I did not feel like the makers of this movie were honestly trying to tell me a story, because the plot was so clichéd. It just mildly distracted me for a moment - and that's just not the highest function a movie should have.
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