Parker's Fame fills me with Glee
I remember as a teenager during the 80's watching the afternoon showing of "Fame" the TV series and wishing life was really like that. Now watching Alan Parker's movie "Fame" which lead to the hugely popular TV series there is still part of me that wishes life was like that. But surprisingly now watching "Fame", some 30 years since it's release I can also appreciate what an amazing movie it is, not only delivering entertainment in the musical form but delivering hard hitting emotion about life as a wannabe star.
"Fame" is basically the story of a bunch of teenagers as they audition to get into a school for performing arts and we follow them through the four years that they are there. We watch them grow as performers but also get weighed down by the highs and lows of stardom as well as those highs and lows of real life along the way.
One of the things which hits you immediately is that with "Fame" director Alan Parker gave us an authentic look at life in a school for performing arts, which whilst he wasn't allowed to shoot the movie at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts which he based it on, he captured the feel of it. From the opening section, and "Fame" basically has 4 sections covering each year at school, we get the hustle and bustle of the auditions, the pushy parents, the delusional teens and the disappointment of not being good enough. It almost has a documentary style to it, with back stage style fly on the wall scenes which gives you a sense of how hard things were just to get into the school let alone graduate.
The authenticity continues through out "Fame" and Parker captures everything about life for a wannabe musician, dancer, comedian and singer. We get the highs of doing well, the lows of failure, the use of drugs to get through, the problems with sex, unexpected pregnancies and the complete and utter pressure which leads at times to a pressure boiler type atmosphere as it all begins to become too much. It's surprisingly effective as is the ties into the real world such as wannabe actor Ralph idolisation of Freddie Prinze who himself had gone the the LaGuardia High School and hit stardom before committing suicide. It adds too the authenticity of it all, the heady power of celebrity.
But aside from the authenticity "Fame" also delivers some comedy, with the almost antagonistic relationship between modern musician Bruno and classical teacher Shorofsky being one of the highlights with Shorofsky witty put downs still as funny now as they were. Along with the comedy, there is also a tender emotional streak as we learn about Montgomery who struggles with his sexuality, Dorothy and her pushy mother as well as Coco who gets duped into a bogus screen test. It's a wonderful mix which delivers fun tinged with emotion through out.
And of course "Fame" is also a musical and for the most a good one at that. It works well with it being set in a school for the performing arts that much of the musical interludes flow naturally into the story, the end of school performance, the music and dance lessons. They are all wonderful often with quite a touching emotional streak to many of the songs. But strangely it is the couple of musical scenes which jar with the flow of the movie which are the most memorable those being the dining hall impromptu dance where Coco sings about Sadie the dinner lady and the totally unforgettable dance sequence in the streets where Bruno's dad rolls up in his taxi blasting his sons music out. They're great moments, extremely memorable but they don't actually fit comfortably into the actual movie.
As for the performances well there are no real bad ones with the arc of the narrative as these young students learn how to perform almost showing in their actual performances. So we go from naivety and inexperience through to more assured, confident performances. But a few do stand out Lee Curreri as Bruno, Irene Cara as Coco, Albert Hague as Shorofsky and of course Gene Anthony Ray as dance sensation Leroy all deliver memorable performances. The performance which really does capture so much of what being a student is about is that which comes from Paul McCrane who as Montgomery has to deal with his sexuality as well as the pressure of performing.
What this all boils down to is that "Fame" is still such a wonderful movie despite being released way back at the start of the 80s. It's a great blend of musical and drama, giving you comedy and emotion in equal measures. But most significantly is that despite all these fun performances and memorable musical scenes it delivers authenticity in what life was like for wannabe stars at the start of the 80s, the pressure both in the class room and outside which weighed heavy on some of their shoulders.