Therefore, you're forgiven if you'd think "Falco," about the Austrian singer best-known for the '80s smash "Rock Me Amadeus," was a put-on. It's not. And it's also not half-bad.
After a lonely, miserable childhood in which his mom calls his cheating dad "Dr. Manwhore," Hans Hölzel (Manuel Rubey) grows up to be a musician in the local scene, drinking and getting high, but being a "textbook borgeious pig," as one of his many female conquests insists.
Recasting himself as Falco, he becomes a pop sensation with "Der Kommissar." Under mega-pressure to deliver a follow-up hit, he becomes somewhat a well-groomed hermit, sustaining on a steady diet of smokes, coke, schnapps, pizza and whores.
Writer/director Thomas Roth's depiction reeks of 100-percent hindsight, trying to use what the world knows as actual drama when it's anything but. Just before Falco creates an international No. 1 smash with the immortal "Rock Me Amadeus," his management discusses their client's make-it-or-break-it fate in hushed tones, as if strategizing a war: "What can we do?" "It won't be easy." "Falco needs a new sound. I think I know who can deliver it."
And that's when Rubey delivers likely the only Falco that Americans knew and loved, nailing him in a re-creation of the "Amadeus" video, spray-painted Beethoven fright wig and all. It's so close to what your memory recalls, it's a little eerie.
As with most films of this ilk, enormous success is toxic to him, as he graduates from minor asshole to major asshole — someone who drinks to such excess, his handler has to hold him up while he urinates, and someone who barks denigrating orders like "Now get me that blonde! I'm a fucking rock star!"
Falco's inevitable fate — he died in an automobile crash in 1998 — is heavily foreshadowed as he spouts dialogue like "They'll only love me again when I'm dead" and "Everything I do, I do to excess." Roth teases the superstar's meeting with the Grim Reaper throughout the film's entirety, so when the big moment comes, it's a little anticlimactic. Either that, or viewers are just distracted by the witness being played by Grace Jones, and wondering if she's playing herself. (She's not.)
Special note should be made of Patricia Aulitzky's portrayal of "Jacqueline A.," Falco's one-night stand turned baby mama turned wife. She shines in what could have been a thankless role.
Also known under the puzzling title of "Falco: Damn It, We're Still Alive!," the German-language film doesn't dive all that deep, but skimming the surface is likely all Americans want from a man they wrongly consider a one-hit wonder. Roth's splashy treatment sure as hell beats a VH1 "Behind the Music" episode. —Rod Lott