Sunday, September 27, 2009
I'm Gonna Live Forever
Often the anticipation of an event is better than the actual event itself. Happily, the new film version of "Fame" - something I had looked forward to - did not disappoint. I cannot disagree with the reviews that had panned this rather disjointed adaptation, with its inconsistent story lines and lack of follow up on some of the characters.
But I was still determined to enjoy this film.
And I loved it. It had everything I was looking for: dance auditions and dance classes, soulful singing, and excellent production numbers. And of course, it was chock full of emotions. I was looking for feeling, the way a movie like "Fame" makes you feel.
Even if this new version of "Fame" is not as successful as the original, I think it can still reach a large audience in the way it makes people feel. In an intense and satisfying way, a film like this deals with the universal feeling of wanting, with what you are passionate about, and what you are willing to do to gain what you desperately want most out of life.
Yes, the film does deal with the heartache of trying and trying and never making it, the heartache that we feel sometimes. A lot of the time (most of the time?). But it also deals with the feelings of possibility, of believing in yourself despite the odds - feelings that keep you hanging in there and coming back for more, because it provides optimism and motivation.
It provides hope.
I was a little surprised by theater friends who were ready to dismiss the film even before its release. "You can't mess with a classic," was a typical remark, as well as "They shouldn't try to remake it."
I didn't see it as a remake. I saw it as an update and as a continuation, and a belated one at that. It's been almost thirty years since the original "Fame" was released in theaters! I would think that my friends who are actors and singers and dancers would be happy that performing arts is still getting so much national attention.
Maybe we are just too old and jaded, now. Maybe we should leave a film like this to the twenty-somethings and teens. Unless they're already jaded, too.
It's a good film. It wasn't a great film, but I enjoyed it. I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of scenes that paid homage to the original, such as the one that shows a dancer close to committing suicide in a subway station, after being told that he doesn't have what it takes to become a professional ballet dancer.
And this new version had qualities similar to what made the original such a favorite of mine. I am grateful for the cover of the title song, as well as for the cover of the ballad "Out Here on My Own," which had also been sung by Irene Cara. Naturi Naughton, as Denise, seems to maintain respect for the original recordings while punching them up with her own deftly controlled vocals. She is no "Coco Hernandez," and she doesn't need to be. Her portrayal of the shy, classically trained pianist/emerging R&B singer is a strong and satisfying performance.
Asher Brook's performance as Marco also appears to be a nod to the original film, if only in the pensive and wistful love songs he sings, reminiscent of Paul McCrane's character, Montgomery MacNeil. His vocal talent seems light and effortless, in a John Mayer kind of way. It is a welcome counterbalance among the many contemporary hip hop tunes in the movie.
I don't know how young people will respond to this new and latest version of "Fame," but it sure got the attention of my Inner Teen. I may not actually live forever, but this 2009 film confirmed that I will be a fanatical Fame-head for the rest of my life.