At the New York City High School for the Performing Arts, students get specialized training that often leads to success as actors, singers, etc. This movie follows eight students from the time when they audition to get into the school, through graduation. Among these are the brazen Coco Hernandez, shy Doris Finsecker, sensitive gay Montgomery MacNeil, and brash, abrasive Ralph Garcy.Written by
It builds up--and then insults--its own characters
"Fame"--about a collection of students attending the four-year Manhattan's School for the Performing Arts--looks right, feels right and sometimes sounds right; soon, however, the film becomes a muddled soap opera about talented young people reaching too high for their stars. Screenwriter Christopher Gore builds up and then insults or humiliates his own characters--and for what purpose? To show that even eager, ambitious, talented kids have to learn humility? Director Alan Parker has alert eyes and ears, and he knows how to lighten the mood of any scene with a bit of raucous humor, so that things never get too heavy. Sharper editing might have left some of Parker and Gore's pretensions and absurdities, such as with the gay student who comes out not just once (to his girlfriend), but twice (to his teacher and classmates). In the next scene, that same young man is seen in tight close-up putting on lipstick; this is done for a sniggering effect, which is stupefying once one realizes that the entire class is getting dolled-up to look like characters from "Rocky Horror". This manufactured loss of dignity is then repeated with all the major characters, including the promising disco queen, the wealthy white ballerina, the talkative dancer, the stand-up comedian and the illiterate who may not graduate because of his failing grades. If people respond to the movie, it's due to the cinematography (which captures some of New York City's squalor and dusty classrooms with a bracing realism), the propulsive soundtrack and the cynical-funny talk. The characters are quite a different matter--they become plot-mechanisms, their pitfalls punctuated by a director who can almost be heard saying, "Don't let this happen to you!" Oscar for title song; Gore's script and another song, the ballad "Out Here On My Own", were Oscar-nominated. **1/2 from ****
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