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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Retro Review: Fame (1980)

Cast: Irene Cara, Lee Curari, Albert Hague, Paul McCrane, Gene Anthony Ray
Genre: Teen Musical Drama 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $21 million 

Plot: A chronicle of the lives of several teenagers who attend a New York high school for students gifted in the performing arts

'Not Going To Live Forever'

Fame follows the lives of teenaged students attending a prestigious performing arts school, as they seek fame and aspire to fulfil their hopes, dreams and ambitions. It is a feature-length dramatised version of reality TV singing shows, The X factor & The Voice but minus the bad, the wacky and weird, with a story that failed to captivate and maintain my interest all the way.

Sitting through Fame, I realised I wasn't watching a film, but musical performances, performance artist people trying to hone their talents and their art. Debbie Allen has a brief cameo as one of the teachers, who sort of lusts over Leroy. The original Fame lacks the mainstream feel, whilst the unnecessary remake of 2010 was Disneyfied and made to cater to general audiences and families. But for Debbie Allen, not one of the students, including Irene Cara's Coco, stood out and had any discernable talent and it wasn't difficult to see why neither of the actors became bigger stars and appeared in more successful movies. Some of the performances come across as stilted, amateurish and one-dimensional with not much range.

Director Alan Parker opts for the grittier, more realistic approach and whilst that is a good thing, what he forgot is his lack of interest in the actual subject matter to bring it and its characters to life. This overlong film is scattered and all over the place, with unrelated scenes tacked onto one another, without many contexts. The situations and character arcs are at times heavy-handed but not fully explored and developed, with the unwanted pregnancy and scene where Coco is made to pose topless reeks of overblown, trite and unnecessary. 

The musical numbers didn't interest me one bit; in fact, I was bored by them I waited patiently for one or two memorable song and dance numbers that will be in memory for years to come. Oddly, it is remembered for its soundtrack, but there are only two songs in 'Fame' and 'Hot Lunch'. Sadly, it never happened and though it is labelled as a musical, it is more of the characters monologuing bland material. The plot is utterly incoherent and the film flatters to deceive. As a musical spectacle, it fails as it operates as a standard drama instead. But even the drama never truly materialises and the story was an utter bore that quickly loses its appeal. Heavily cliched with the gay stereotype, angry Black male in Leroy cursing and being cocky, and a snoozefest most of the time with curse words, that and we learnt little about Leroy and Lee Curreri's character, Bruno piano playing and with loose ends never tied up with regards to the characters storylines, Fame never lives up to its credibility and reputation and one that has been long sought after by many critics, almost 40 years on since its release.

It was such a difficult, monotonous and frustrating watch as the storylines and arcs are dull and go in so many directions and the film drifts from one place to another, with little consistency and is messy it was hard to follow. If the film chose to focus on a specific character, make them the central character and perhaps establish their intent in the film and build the plot around him/her, this would have better suited Fame. The direction is one dimensional, bland and too safe for its own good that fails to engage. 

Final Verdict:

Too scattered, too dull and lethargic and with the story never making the big strides it needed to do and with some explosive moments to elevate Fame and make it more watchable, Fame never caught on with me, and despite my interest in the arts, is more of a niche film than one people can easily latch onto and say it was really profound. It wasn't profound to me. I could say I just didn't get it: in Fame and as much as I enjoy seeing people go down the performance arts route, it made me feel practically ziltch towards it.

Because I wasn't able to connect with the characters. & as for the aftermath of Coco's storyline, I don't want to go there.

Fame's execution courtesy of Alan Parker was, unspectacular, & lame.


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