“A real artist must never be afraid of what other people will say about him.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
What stands out most vividly about the movie are the “imaginatively staged, free-for-all musical production numbers”, during which “everyone in the school jumps in spontaneously”, with “blacks, whites, and hispanics dancing together, ballet dancers rocking with students in wild street clothes, cellists jamming with drummers”; we truly “see spirited democracy at work, and no one worries about making fools of themselves”. While these numbers are far from realistic (who cares?), they nonetheless perfectly capture the vibrancy, enthusiasm, diligence, and creativity of this immensely talented group of teens — which makes it especially depressing to see how much they inevitably struggle to “make it” as artists in the “real world” (though Parker should be commended for authentically representing this aspect of their young existence, too).
As Peary writes, the “entire film, not just the music, has rhythm”, which is “most evident in the dialogue [Christopher Gore wrote the screenplay] and the editing” (by Gerry Hambling). Indeed, other than its catchy score (by Michael Gore), the film’s fast-paced, finely calibrated editing is one of its most distinctive features — particularly during the first section (entitled “Auditions”; the remaining sections are divided into the four high school years). I also love how Parker manages to capture not only the immense ethnic and social diversity of these New York youths, but how multi-talented they must become to have a fighting chance of success as working artists.
They must also prove themselves academically, at least in order to graduate — and it’s on this latter topic that the film ultimately flails a bit, as demonstrated in the interactions between Ray and his English teacher (Anne Meara), who doesn’t seem to have a clue that her defiant student may be struggling with issues far more complicated than mere motivation. I wish the screenplay spent more time on Ray (whose complex character is the most interesting by far) and less on the friendship/love “triangle” between Teefy, Miller and McCrane — though their outing to see a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show remains a fun cultural artifact. While Fame may ultimately try to cover a bit too much territory in one feature-length film (the 1982-1987 T.V. show spin-off made complete sense!), it’s easy enough to focus on the parts that work exceptionally well — and, thankfully, many do.
Note: Sadly, Ray (who played Leroy in both the film and T.V. series) apparently struggled enormously in his personal life, becoming HIV-positive and dying far too young (of a stroke) at 41.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: