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Saturday
Sep262009

Fame

If there is one thing I cannot fault a movie for, it is its ambition. Watching a movie attempt to carry out a difficult task is admirable, but more often than not, that ambition leads to failure. Fame is no different. What this film tries to do is take 10 kids and give them each their own stories within the overarching story, but ends up creating links where none exist and emotion that hasn't been established. Though I have not seen the original Academy Award winning 1980 film, it's safe to say that the new Fame does not live up to its namesake.

The problem with detailing the story here like I usually do is that there are so many unexplored mini-stories within it and doing so would take way too long to type. As a brief summary, the movie begins with hopeful students auditioning to get into New York's School of Performing Arts. Among the acceptees are Jenny (Kay Panabaker), Marco (Asher Book), Victor (Walter Perez), Malik (Collins Pennie), Denise (Naturi Naughton) and Alice (Kherington Payne). Upon entering the school, Jenny and Marco meet each other and start a relationship, as do Victor and Alice. Meanwhile, Victor joins up with Malik and Denise to form a hip hop band.

Out of all of the stories in the movie, of which there are many, the two relationships and the band are the three most important for this review. Why? Because they are all major components and they all have fundamental flaws. The kicker is that the flaws are largely the same.

Here is what I mean. Fame sports 10 characters (by my count; perhaps even more) and none of them are given the chance to grow. By attempting to juggle so many different stories and emotions and hardships, it completely misses the boat on everything. Some could have been interesting, namely Jenny and Marco's budding relationship, but they don't get the time that they need to be fully fleshed out.

At one point in the movie, Marco asks Jenny out on a date and she accepts. At the date, they hit it off and the scene ends with the implication that they are now together. This was a great scene, Marco serenading Jenny with a beautiful song on piano, but it ends too abruptly and moves on, skipping forward to their junior year. The film never knew when it had something going for it and flies right by its most interesting aspects. I would have loved more screen time for these two to see the ups and downs of their relationship so I could truly understand their feelings for each other, but the next thing you know, they've broken up. It skipped ahead a year showing little in between the sparking romance and its decline.

Similar to this is Victor and Alice's relationship, which receives even less time than Marco and Jenny, so little that I forgot they were together in the first place. The culmination of their time together onscreen totals about, oh, I don't know, 10 seconds (no joke) before the break up scene. Alice decides to follow her dreams, which leaves Victor alone and heartbroken, or at least you would think so. The next scene shows him playing the piano, smiling and having a grand old time. He doesn't seem to care. If he doesn't, why should I? To care about characters, they need screen time. It's as simple as that and it's a fact. It is a movie after all. It's hard to care about something that isn't seen and never explored.

Then there are the times when you aren't even aware of the status of the characters. In the case of the hip hop band, there is a moment in the movie where they start to get some recognition from a music company. However, they are only interested in Denise, not the entire group. Victor and Malik get angry, storm out and the scene ends. The next time you see all three together is late in the movie backstage before a concert. What is unclear is whether the guys have made peace with being kicked to the curb and are there supporting Denise or if Denise turned down the deal and stuck with them. Until they all get onstage and perform their song, it's ambiguous. Ambiguity can be a helpful tool in films because it allows for different interpretations, but that is usually after the movie is over and you are reflecting back on it. Fame's ambiguity stems from poor writing.

Take for example, Jenny's evolution as an artist. When the movie starts, she can't act, she can't sing, and she can't play an instrument. It's a wonder she made it into the school at all. Near the end, the characters begin to talk about her talent, though we are still yet to see it at this point. It isn't until the final self gratifying final sequence that Jenny shows her chops in any artistic field. Fame simply does a bad job of creating even the most basic of storylines.

What it all boils down to is that the film has no structure. It jumps from character to character and storyline to storyline so much that no real flow is established. It's not so much a narrative as it is a collage of after school specials rolled into one. To be fair, the songs are good and the performance/dance sequences are genuinely impressive, but the whole is lacking. It takes more than a few catchy song and dance numbers to make an engaging movie. Fame has a good heart and means well, but its failure to carry out the simplest of tasks prevents it from flourishing.

Fame receives 1.5/5

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