Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fall Fame

re-run picture, but brand new review. Thanks to Pat Maples who publishes the Little Paper of San Saba. She supports my film criticism, and publishes it despite a lack of a movie theater in her town. So, it's my birthday week and last week I treated myself to a matinee. Unfortunately, I left the theater feeling old. Here's the review:

A zillion years ago - 1980 - to be exact, I remember coming out of the movie "Fame" feeling exhilarated. I wanted to sing, dance, bang the drums, and express myself. Perhaps I still felt youthful and hopeful and ready to challenge the world and win. The 2009 version of "Fame" is okay, but not mega-uplifiting, not toe-tapping-leap-from-your seat-and-want-to-dance amazing. Perhaps I'm old. Perhaps I've experienced too many rejections in my writing career. Perhaps this cast of kids didn't inspire me, and perhaps a remake was unnecessary.

I just re-read that paragraph and decided I'm old. I identified too much with the teachers and not the students in this new "Fame". The movie is quickly paced. We hurry through auditions, judging the applicants as the teachers appraise them. Then we have freshman year and we're happy to see the students we picked. The principal, played by Debbie Allen (in the original Fame), gives a speech about how hard it is to succeed at the school of Performing Arts. She talks about the pressure, the stress, and the ups and downs. I could relate to her and I wanted to shake the kids who were slouching in their seats, texting friends, and not listening. So, the kids are the usual - super talented dancer, so-so dancer, awesome classic pianist who's pressured by her parents and really wants to play fun music (the girl can sing too), the uptight actress, the angry actor, the filmmaker, etc. We get snippets of talent, snippets of background homelife, and yet this film doesn't pull us in. We don't feel the pain of creativity. This "Fame" is a bit glossy, a bit too hurried to get through the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years.

As I said, it's the teachers who give us the message of "Fame". Megan Mullally, the cool teacher, is out with her kids at a karaoke place. They manage to get her on stage and she wows them with a song. They ask her why she isn't in shows, still in the game. Her story of almost success makes us adults wince. We've been there - good but not awesome. Talented, but... That sums up life - coulda, woulda, not quite good enough. You can see the sympathy in some kids' eyes, plus some pity too.
BeBe Neuwirth, as the ballet teacher, has to tell a student that she won't write a letter of recommendation. Awesome scene in the movie and heartbreaking. This was the blood and guts of "Fame". We needed more of these moments to give the film more heart.

For matinee price, "Fame" is entertaining. But with "American Idol", "Dancing With the Stars", and other talent related shows, this film did not need to be re-made. It's not a novelty and doesn't give insight into what we already know about fame and success. It really doesn't happen overnight, and the odds are cruel. And you know what - the one thing I wanted, they didn't do. The kids didn't spill into the streets to stop traffic and dance and sing with abandon. That could have been exhilarating.

"Remember my name....fame......"

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