Barry Miller, Maureen Teefy, and Paul McCrane star in FAME, directed by Alan Parker for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Fame (1980, Alan Parker)

It’s sort of amusing how Fame, a film about high school, gets an incomplete. The film is rigidly structured–the four years of high school, plus the auditions at the beginning for the characters to get into said high school, a performing arts school in New York.

The characters’ stories develop throughout the film in a manner far more natural for one year, instead of four, especially in the case of Gene Anthony Ray. In the film’s silliest plot contrivance, Ray is illiterate, something teacher Anne Meara notices right away. She doesn’t really do anything about it–except negatively reinforce him–until a very dramatic moment towards the end of the film (in the senior year). Fame bends reality for impact, with director Parker trying to distract from it. He uses seriousness to distract from narrative laziness.

It doesn’t work. Especially given the film constantly drops characters–both Lee Curreri and Laura Dean, who have big story arcs in the first half of the film, disappear once Fame focuses on Barry Miller. Maureen Teefy and Paul McCrane–the first half’s closest thing to protagonists–are around Miller so they don’t disappear, they just don’t have much interesting to do.

One would think there’s a better, much longer version of Fame, but maybe not. It’s insincere, but rather well-made (the Michael Seresin photography and Gerry Hambling editing is phenomenal), and there’s a lot of good acting.

Miller’s good, Teefy and McCrane are great. So’s Irene Cara.

It should be better.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Alan Parker; written by Christopher Gore; director of photography, Michael Seresin; edited by Gerry Hambling; music by Michael Gore; production designer, Geoffrey Kirkland; produced by David De Silva and Alan Marshall; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Paul McCrane (Montgomery), Maureen Teefy (Doris), Barry Miller (Ralph), Irene Cara (Coco), Lee Curreri (Bruno), Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy), Laura Dean (Lisa), Antonia Franceschi (Hilary), Anne Meara (Mrs. Sherwood), Jim Moody (Farrell), Albert Hague (Shorofsky), Joanna Merlin (Miss Berg), Debbie Allen (Lydia), Eddie Barth (Angelo), Tresa Hughes (Mrs. Finsecker) and Boyd Gaines (Michael).

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