Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fame (1980)

Directed by Alan Parker.
1980. Rated R, 134 minutes.
Irene Cara
Eddie Barth
Lee Curreri
Laura Dean
Gene Anthony Ray
Antonia Franceschi
Debbie Allen
Barry Miller
Albert Hague

We follow a class of students through their four years at New York's School of the Performing Arts. This is a bit of an oddity for a musical. At it's core, it's pure Broadway. We get big production numbers that break out anywhere, complete with infectious choruses and highly choreographed dance routines. What makes it different is it's wrapped in a truly gritty, urban package that movies like West Side Story and Grease can only feign. This is channelled most effectively through the remarkable performance of Gene Anthony Ray as the talented but troubled Leroy. Then pop-star Irene Cara received top billing, even singing two Oscar nominated songs from the soundtrack. However, it's Ray who is the real star. In fact, of the students, he was one of the few allowed to reprise their role for the long-running Fame TV series which followed (a number of the instructors did the same). Adding to this is the very real possibility most of the kids we're watching will utterly fail when it comes to achieving their dream of becoming rich, famous entertainers as there are reminders of this everywhere around them. Still, it steers clear of becoming the total agent of despair and desolation it's urban musical successor Rent turned out to be. It strikes a nice balance betwee hope and reality. I'm not much for musicals, but this is one of my faves.

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