- Movie Rating -

Fame (1980)

| May 16, 1980

I have an intense admiration for anyone who has a deep passion for something, especially when they are young.  I get it.  I do.  For me, it’s the movies.  They occupy a forward space in my brain not as a hobby but as something that is deep-rooted in the DNA of my personality.  For the kids entering The New York High School for the Performing Arts, it’s a chance to be a great dancer, a comedian, a musician, a composer.  All drive their passion into the front doors of the school and four year later come back out with varying results.  How they succeed is greatly determined by how hard they are willing to push themselves.

What works well is that the only equality for these kids is raw talent.  They come from different backgrounds, different races, different class-distinctions and a few who are unlucky enough have been dragged into this by a stage mother.  What I didn’t expect is that the kids feel real.  They don’t feel like they came out of central casting or, God forbid, a modeling agency.  They’re young, insecure, immature, the product of their background, the product of their environment.  In other words, devastatingly individual.  I don’t know most of these actors, many of whom are on screen for the first time, and that gives them a freshness, almost like a documentary.

The teachers too feel like individuals, but we can see the battle that they face.  They want to help these kids embrace their passion but find a balance between perfectionism and compassion.  They battle against student’s insecurities to bring out the best in them, but the reality is always real that only a small percentage of these kids will realize their dreams.  At best, they may end up teaching at The New York School for the Performing Arts.

What excites me about this movie is the way that it breaks convention.  It would have been easy to lock 15 or so students in a classroom and fill them with conflicts and motivational speeches, but the screenwriters are much smarter than that.  They put the student’s four-year oddyssey into four acts that we can understand: “The Audition,” “Freshman Year,” etc.  We can watch them grow up, embrace their talent, and in some cases burn out.  It’s a maturing process.  That’s so refreshing at a moment when the movie seem to see kids as hard-focused on their bodies.  I am alarmed at how many movies these days are focused on their virginity and not their vitality.  Given that, Fame is a treasure.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized