Artistic integrity and raw talent are the primary focus in a world where the performing arts and musical excellence are considered to be amongst of the most important things in life. Kevin Tancharoen adapts his new film, a remake of the 1980 Alan Parker cult favorite, to follow several characters through their journey from freshman to senior year amidst the chaos of New York City.
Originally based on La Guardia High School, this up to date version takes the audience on an adventure through the competitive arts arena and into the lives of several young over achievers. By incorporating the existing title and original screenplay into the newer edition, the audience gets a taste of the performance world and how drastically this particular career path has shifted over the last thirty years. With the prominence of actual developed talent and various concrete story lines, Fame allows for the rest of the world to once and for all understand the energy and dedication it takes to become a top level performing artist.
Tancharoen, himself a former dancer and choreographer, sets the tone for the story, swiftly introducing us to swarms of applicants rehearsing and sweating over their impending trial. Quickly, a pack of ten thousand is narrowed down to less than two hundred eager teenagers all of whom excel in their specific field. Aside from showcasing the audition procedure, these vignettes begin to build the central characters that will continue to develop over the course of the film. Each scene provides a look into the commitment and passion it takes for these young people to thrive among such rigorous competition.
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The story is for the most part separated into quarters, showcasing the development in talent and relationships throughout the four years. As freshman, we are rightfully introduced to ten young hopefuls as they begin their quest for stardom. These bright eyed, energetic and often anxious individuals represent the school’s diverse curriculum and showcase the differing background and lifestyles amongst the talent. As we continue to learn about each student, we begin to see the spectrum of ability, support and overall potential as it pertains to their chosen career path. Tancharoen makes a concerted effort to feature at least a few delegates from each facet as a way for the audience to clearly gage the range accordingly.
At an institution purporting to nurture the creme de la creme of artistic talent, nobody better takes the award for excellence then Alice Ellerton (Kherington Payne). Claiming to be the “most talented kid in school,” she very well may be the most talented kid in the film as well. Another candidate for most gifted could possibly be real life pop singer Naturi Naughton through the character guise of Denise Dupree. As she delivers several dynamite vocal performances, we see Denise finally able to explore music outside of the confines of classical piano.
As the film progresses, Fame clearly evolves into a platform for these two ladies; specifically designed to show the world that they are really as capable as they claim to be. Differently, some of the other characters such as Jenny Garrison are far less believable as PA students due to the hindering of talent and personality. Played by Kay Panabaker, Jenny is clearly a shy underdog who never truly exhibits ability to suggest why she was accepted to the school in the first place. Despite the occasionally preachy nature of the writing, typically geared towards the adult characters of the film, Bebe Newirth completely embodies the wrath and whip of an unapologetic dance teacher. Although her stern and honest style of direction has the ability to crush dreams, she succeeds in separating the strong from the weak. Megan Mullaly also deserves recognition for her quirky, yet supportive portrayal of a musical theater teacher who gave up her own dreams of stardom years before.
Similar to the original version, this is truly an inspiring film that exposes a behind the scenes look at the long developmental process an artist must endure before they can be worthy of a big time career. By retrieving the original musical numbers from the classic soundtrack, the audience is better able to embrace the characters as real people struggling to achieve a goal. Although appropriate to its specific demographic of kids and teenagers in 2009, Fame will truly engage the individuals swept away by the original, the power and magic Tancharoen successfully re-instills into this new generation.
Starring: Kay Panabaker, Walter Perez, Naturi Naughton, Asher Brook, Charles S. Dutton, Kelsey Grammer
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Distributor: United Artists
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