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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
TVholic1 October 2000
High school. Years and decades later, some look back on it with fondness, others with embarrassment. But few find it easy to forget. It's one of the most critical phases of our lives, when changes come fast and furious whether we're ready or not. No longer children, not yet adults, irresistible forces buffet us, pushing and pulling us in every direction.

"Fame" did its best to capture this turbulent, chaotic period for its cast of young characters. For the most part, it succeeded. It meandered, but did feel like a slice of life. This movie holds a special place in the hearts of the Class of '80. We had just bid farewell to the sensational '70s, and soon to the end of three or four stimulating and sometimes difficult school years. We were headed out into the cold, cruel world, leaving home for college then parts unknown. As we approached our watershed event, this newly released movie was like a two-hour yearbook for us. We couldn't escape the titular song on the radio. That was us up there on the screen. Those were our friends, rivals and classmates as we had faced our own dreams, frustrations, successes and failures. Except that theirs were peppered and punctuated with lively tunes from Michael Gore.

It's especially poignant for those who attended any of New York City's other elite, top-tier high schools, especially Stuyvesant, Bronx HS of Science or Brooklyn Tech. Like the kids here, we were considered the best of the best. We had no auditions, but instead rigorous entrance exams. More than the Performing Arts kids, we were expected to change the world, although not necessarily become famous. Like them, not all of us made it. But the pressure cooker environment fostered extraordinary camaraderie and esprit de corps, not unlike the toe-tapping "Hot Lunch Jam" in the cafeteria. On our own graduation day, our spirits soared almost like the jubilant crescendo in the rousing finale. The film leaves us fittingly on a single, triumphant note at the end of "I Sing the Body Electric," pointing to the blindingly bright, boundless future and all the promise it held.

"Fame" couldn't have been set anywhere else. This story would never have worked in a small or suburban school. Los Angeles has a stronger identification with movies and television, but NYC is a mecca for all of the arts. Home not only to what was then called PA, but also world-renowned Juilliard, NYC is a cultural center unmatched by any other city in the world. "Fame" is also a time capsule of the rest of the city of the time, showing the seediness, grit and grime that was endemic of a New York still struggling back from the fiscal crisis that had nearly bankrupted it. But most of all, it showed the vitality, since muted by the inroads of Giuliani, Disney and tourism. Having it filmed in and around an actual NYC school - although not the real PA - helped give it a wonderful sense of verisimilitude.

What I wouldn't give to be young again. But with "Fame," at least I can remember what it was like.
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The last of the 70's movies
atzimo27 August 2002
'Fame' (1980) is brilliant. It's got all these qualities that made the late 70's movies so great. It is proud of its directness and not ashamed of being over the top.

What really matters here, is the journey, not the destination. Ignorant idiots with soap opera mentality, will never realize that 'Fame' is about the struggles, anxieties and triumphs of these young people, not about their careers.

Ironically enough, none of the very talented actors of 'Fame' made it in Hollywood. 'Fame' marked the end of an era. The end of artistic freedom and experimentation and the beginning of commercialization and political correctness. It's the last statement of a generation that had a voice of its own.

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Good. Could have been great.
TOMASBBloodhound10 January 2007
A recent survey of children in the UK re-enforced the notion put forth by this film 27 years ago. That being more than anything else, young people want to grow up to be somebody famous. It used to be doctors and firemen that kids wanted to be. Now, everyone wants to be famous. Fame is a story of a group of kids accepted into the High School for Performing Arts in New York City. We seen them first audition, then take classes and learn about life for the next four years. The film has a lot of fine qualities, but ultimately leaves you feeling a little unsatisfied.

Alan Parker's bold directorial style fits the story pretty well. The film has been classified as a musical, but more than anything it is a drama. Musical numbers and dance routines break out here and there, and Parker keeps them as close to realistic as they really could have been filmed. The acting is for the most part top-drawer with a few exceptions. The pacing is a little off, particularly toward the end of the film, but by that point, the story has already taken a few wrong turns anyway.

First off, the auditions at the beginning of the film should have weeded a couple of the principle characters out. It seems unlikely that anyone would show up and audition for one department, then stumble their way through admissions to another. Some of these people just don't look that talented or interested to begin with. Once the first year of classes gets going, the film settles into a nice groove. The interaction between students and teachers is very well handled, and it leaves you wanting more. The film begins to lose itself later on as we see more and more of the students' lives out of school. Some of these people just aren't worth caring about.

The film's biggest mistake is making the Ralph Garcy character so prominent. This guy is a boorish; self-centered jerk. A "professional a-hole" as he proudly declares on stage during his comedy routines. The audience is supposed to somehow feel for this guy and his tragic personal situation, but I was just hoping they'd throw his butt out of school. Irene Cara, Maureen Teefy, Paul McCrane and the late Gene Anthony Ray are the people you'll care about by the time this film is over. Try as I might, I still can't develop abs like Gene Anthony Ray had in this film.

Overall this film is good. It is memorable, interesting, and full of daring scenes and performances. It runs maybe a little too long, and perhaps some of the wrong characters get fully developed while others kind of hover in the background. The musical numbers are great, and there is even a surprise or two waiting to be discovered by the time the film is over. Though not perfect, Fame will be a film that lives on in one way or another for many years to come.

7 of 10 stars.

The Hound.
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Fame! I'm going to live forever. I'm going to learn how to fly.
PinkBubbles3 July 2000
I LOVE this movie.

It is way too bad they don't make movies like this any more, and that teenagers are more amazed by a bunch of trashy movies with big name actors and big time special effects, but not big time plots and characters.

I'm 15 years old, a teenager in the "nothing 90's" (oh, so it's 2000 now, who gives a care?), and being a lover of musicals, 80's high school movies (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, etc.) and those sort of things, I was recommended this by a "Fame fanatic", my aunt.

I knew after the audition scenes that this was a perfect movie for me. It follows the lives of tear-jerkingly believable characters of several different backgrounds. I laughed, I cried, and I bought the soundtrack. The acting is so excellent that the first time I saw it, I'd forgotten that these were not real living, flesh people, only actors.

There a some flaws, however. There are a few gaps in some of the characters, and the movie should have went on for another 30 minutes, although it was already about 2 hours and 30 minutes (which it didn't feel like). It is also outdated, and you sometimes can't help but laugh at how much it is.

If you've never seen this movie, and you are a fan of musicals, arts, and realistic teenage movies, run, don't walk, to a local video store.

Hopefully, Fame will truly live forever!

My rating: **** (out of 5 *'s)
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Brilliant movie
adam-10092 March 2006
I truly hate musicals because music numbers just start out of the sudden and usually spoil scenes, but this one is completely different - it's simply brilliant. Plot perhaps isn't any challenge for the viewers, but the simplicity of people life stories makes this movie great.

I've seen it at least dozen times and still I'm not tired with the plot, characters or music (I just love the soundtrack - it's the only soundtrack that I've really wanted to have and most probably will remain the only one that I owe).

For me it's a must-seen kind of movie, great characters compiled with entertaining songs and a lot of things to think about after the movie end.
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Story about potential.
Schlockmeister20 April 2001
This movie showcases a LOT of incredible talent. Fantastic performances throughout. The movie also is a great story about potential and how people use, abuse or ignore it in themselves. This is a story about students who look like they are all headed for fame and fortune. It shows the pitfalls along the way. We learn that talent is not enough. We also learn that many fall short and give up along the way. As an adult who was a teenager back when this movie first came out, it is a very bittersweet look at potential in us all and has us examine what we did with it in our lives, are we where we thought we would be? Yes, this movie is dated, it is over 20 years old, it HAS to be in some regard. But the story is timeless and will rank among classics of teenage movies and also always have a warm spot in the hearts of adults who grew up in the era. Highly recommended. Would make a great double feature with "Gold Diggers of 1933" just to show contrast and to see how Broadway has changed over the years.
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A strikingly original musical
Gideon248 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Fame was a hip and contemporary 1980 musical that was an inside look at the lives of a disparate group of talented teenagers at the High School of Performing Arts in New York. The episodic film takes a close look at the inner workings of show business and what drives performers to go through the work and constant rejection that being in the business involves. The film opens on a particular freshman year at the school and concludes four years later.

Along the way we meet Montgomery McNeill (Paul McCrane), the neglected son of a famous actress who despite his lonely childhood, still finds the business enticing. Maureen Teefy is wonderful as Doris Finsecker, a painfully shy teen who has been pushed into the business by her mother, but does come out of her shell at the school and discovers a talent for acting. Irene Cara plays CoCo Hernandez, a triple-threat know-it-all, who learns that she doesn't know as much as she thinks she does. Lee Curreri plays Bruno, an electronic keyboard genius who loves sitting in front of a keyboard but is at a complete loss at how to act in the real world. Barry Miller is brilliant in an Oscar-worthy turn as Ralph Garcy, a bitter Latino teen who is trying to bury his resentment about his father deserting him as a child by being a stand-up comedian. The late Gene Anthony Ray also shines as a dancer who only came to the auditions to partner a friend who wants to get in the school, but he is the one who has the talent, a star in the dance studio, but not so much in the classroom who constantly butts heads with Miss Sherwood (Anne Meara), the school's hard-nosed English teacher.

Just like a real-life school, students come and go as the years pass, most notably in the sophomore year, where we meet Hilary Van Dorn (Antonia Francheschi) a snooty rich dance major who comes between a budding romance between CoCo and Leroy and has her own career aspirations derailed in the process.

This film is riveting from jump as we watch students going through the painful audition process and struggle to develop their talent while keeping up their academic studies as well. The actors are pretty much perfectly cast, with standout work from Miller and Meara.

Alan Parker's direction is breezy and energetic, giving all of his very talented cast a little time in the sun and Christopher Gore's screenplay is surprisingly bold and uncompromising. The musical numbers leap off the screen, thanks to some inventive choreography and strong vocals, particularly Cara, whose rendition of the title tune won the Oscar for Best Original Song.

A movie that will have you tapping your toes and wanting to watch over and over again. The film inspired a long running television series, with Curreri and Ray recreating their movie roles, and a remake.
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The Game Of Fame
Chrysanthepop12 November 2008
Alan Parker's 'Fame' beautifully showcases college-life of eight aspiring artistes. Many seem to have a problem with the open ending and ponder on questions like what happened to Coco after the porn shoot or what happened to Ralph and Doris etc. However, I think this works well as it points to the uncertainty of their future as that's how life is. The point was to show their struggles during the college years and Parker captures that very well making it easy for the viewers to relate to and bringing a nostalgic feel.

'Fame' starts with some audition scenes which are hilarious. Then it shows which candidates are selected and that's when the story starts. Though it is labelled a musical drama, it doesn't follow the traditional musical genre. The songs do not appear out of nowhere. They are well situated within the context of the film and quite nice to listen to. 'Fame' also has that wild 70's feel. If this movie is the last of the 70s then it 'rounds' up the decade well.

The actors, most of them in their 20s, do a fine job. There are those who are shy, naive and afraid, those who are wacky, wild and a little reckless and those who put a front but all these characters are striving for their dream which is to become an artiste. The actors brilliantly demonstrate this. I particularly liked Barry Miller, Paul McCrane and Maureen Teefy who play the three close friends and Irene Cara who as the vulnerable singer Coco.

I had heard a lot about 'Fame' but I was under the impression that it would be a flimsy musical. I got a chance to watch it last night and I was certainly under the wrong impression. Even though many won't appreciate it, To me it is great.
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Seeking a Spot in the Show Business
claudio_carvalho9 March 2008
In New York, a group of freshmen join the High School for the Performing Arts after being well succeeded in their audition. For four years, their dreams, deceptions, success, love and personal dramas are disclosed though the insecure Doris Finsecker (Maureen Teefy), the homosexual Montgomery (Payl McCrane), the aggressive Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray), the hopeful Coco (Irene Cara), the ambitious Ralph Garci (Barry Miller) and their friends until their graduation day.

Twenty-eight years ago, "Fame" was a great success, with the story of teenagers seeking a spot in the show business, and I loved this movie and the soundtrack on CD. I have just watched "Fame" on DVD, and presently I would say that it is a good movie with a great potential only, but with too many flawed subplots. The story follows too many characters and leaves many situations without answer. I do not know whether Alan Parker had edition problems to reduce the running time of this movie, but what happened, for example, with the ballerina that goes to a clinic for abortion? What happened with Leroy and his teacher, did he fail due to his grammar problem? What happened with Coco after undressing her blouse in the apartment of that crook? The musician that plays synthesizer and his proud father are left behind in the subplot. Anyway, "Fame" is still a delightful entertainment and a cult-movie for me. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Fama" ("Fame")
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Is this really a musical?
larryleecollins6 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This movie breaks down a lot of the expectations that most audiences have in regards to musicals. However, this movie is still very clearly a musical through and through.

One of the biggest expectations audiences have going into a musical is that the characters will frequently just start singing and dancing for no reason. Parker decided to take a different route on how he presented the song and dance numbers. The movie revolves around a group of high school students as they progress through their four years of school at a performing arts high school. Since nearly every character in the story is a singer or dancer, it makes sense for them to sing and/or dance every once in a while. And since I'm sure every one of you knows at least one person that's involved in the arts somehow, I'm also sure you know that it's not completely out of character for these people to randomly start singing and dancing. The characters in "Fame" hold true to this personality trait. Whenever the characters start randomly singing and/or dancing throughout the movie, it may be "weird" according to societal norms, but for actual performers, it's something that could and often does actually happen in real life.

"Fame" also challenges the purpose of songs in the musicals. Normally, songs in musicals either are vital in progressing the plot or are simply for entertainment. The music in "Fame" does neither of these things. While the songs are vital to the plot, it is not in the conventional sense. Most of the songs in the movie are sung by musicians as they are auditioning, practicing, or performing, rather than simply being a tool to move the plot along. If someone were to take all the songs out of the movie the plot would not make as much sense, because without them the characters singing them would have to be removed from the script. Another thing that is expected out of most musicals is the big production number at the end of the musical that either ties all of the loose ends of the story up or celebrates everyone's good fortune. "Fame" still has a production number, but it fulfills neither of the expected uses. This production number takes place at the students' graduation. It serves as the final chance for both the audience within the movie and those of us watching the movie itself to see all of the characters perform before they go off into the "real world." None of the characters' story lines end with a sense of finality. No one is shown getting a professional job, or an agent, or even a relationship. The characters graduate and that's the end of it. For most audiences, they are expecting the final number to tie up loose ends. Sadly, these people will be left hanging.

Even though "Fame" is definitely very unconventional in it's delivery, it is still very strongly a musical. The songs are still very vital to the storyline even though they aren't quite delivered how you would expect. In my opinion, it does a great job at trying to reach to both musical loving audiences and non-musical loving audiences.
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Evocative and atmospheric musical drama (spoilers)
alainenglish13 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spawning a long-running TV series and more recently a hit musical, "Fame" is an atmospheric musical drama, heavily evocative of the era in which it was made, and this contributes largely to it's appeal when the film is viewed today.

The story follows a class of students as they undergo four years together at the New York High School of Performing Arts. The cast of characters includes wayward, illiterate black dancer Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray); insecure Jewish girl Doris (Maureen Teefy); closet homosexual Montogomery (Paul McCrane); frustrated musician Bruno (Lee Curreri) and Ralph (Barry Miller), a conflicted Puerto Rican with a tragic family background.

Throughout the film we trace the characters' ascension from the first auditions, the Freshman year right through to graduation. It is fair to say, though, that the story is not the film's greatest strength. Quite a few plotlines are left dangling before we cut to the big finale. But the message gets through that disappointment, exploitation and probable failure are what await most of these aspiring young artistes. In spite of this very serious message, the film loses none of it's youthful exuberance.

This is largely down to the enthusiasm and energy of some very-well cast performers. Paul McCrane is a hit as the sensitive Montogomery and he hits it off especially well with Maureen Teefy's Doris. Barry Miller is good as Ralph Garci, who nearly suffers the fate of his idol Freddie Prinze. The older players are also well represented, with Albert Hague scoring quite a few laughs as music teacher Shorofsky.

Technically the cinematography is also very good for this film. It is very well shot and lit throughout. Alot of the younger characters are bathed in a very soft light that enhances their essential innocence and sensitivity.

It is the music, alot of it intercut with the action, which truly puts this film in a class of its own. The now legendary scene with the kids dancing on top of the traffic to the tune of "Fame" is an especially enjoyable highlight. But also of note is Irene Cara's quieter ballad "Out Here On My Own" and the final rousing send-off "I Sing The Body Electric".

These virtues lift the film above its incoherent plot, making it a lively and memorable tribute to the energy and the dreams of youth. Great fun.
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Entertaining, Touching, Inspirational, Brilliant! "Fame" is the ultimate teen musical!
eytand9416 September 2009
This movie tells the story of nine ambitious teens trying to follow their dream at the infamous New York High School For Performing Arts: Coco, the singer, Bruno, the modern Mozart, Lisa, Leroy, and Hilary, the struggling dancers, Ralph, the comedian, and Doris and Montgomery, the actors. While they all think they have what it takes to really reach their goals, they are going to need a lot more than just their talent. They will have to deal with rejection, heartbreak, education, pain, and love in order to achieve their fame.

"Fame" is one of the most entertaining, classic, and inspirational movies of all time. It has everything a teen drama/musical should have: extremely catchy, entertaining, Oscar-winning songs performed by the amazing Irene Cara, stunning dance numbers, a very attractive cast that makes you believe in the characters, and a great story, including the heartbreaking scene when Coco meets the video camera.

Like I said, the cast is awesome. Irene Cara can really act, and it's not only her singing that makes her shine here as Coco. Lee Curreri is very good as Bruno. Barry Miller brings a lot of humor to Ralph. Maureen Teefy is great as the outcast Doris, and look closely, and you'll see Paul McCrane of "ER" as Montgomery.

This is truly an amazing film. "Fame" really touched me and inspired me to keep following my dreams as an actor and singer. Any movie that moves me this much is a winner in my book. A must-see! The film really touched me and inspired me to follow my dreams as an actor and singer.
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It builds up--and then insults--its own characters
moonspinner5511 September 2004
"Fame", about students attending the four-year Manhattan's School for the Performing Arts, looks right, feels right, and sometimes sounds right--but, too soon, the film becomes a muddled soap opera about talented young people reaching too far for their stars. Screenwriter Christopher Gore and director Alan Parker build up and then insult their own characters, though the ensemble cast does good work and Parker has alert eyes and ears. Sharper editing might have left some of his pretensions and absurdities out of the mix (after one student admits to being homosexual--not just once, to a girl student, but twice, to the rest of his class and teacher--he is seen in tight close-up putting on lipstick; this is done for a sniggering effect, which is stupefying once you realize the ENTIRE CLASS is dolled-up to look like characters from "Rocky Horror"). The gay kid isn't the only one being humiliated; the manufactured slapping-down is then used several more times, on 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, "Look! See!"
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Can you believe this movie was made over 20 years ago? It still hasn't lost its punch 20 years later.
raysond6 March 2003
Its amazing after 20 years this movie still hasn't lost none of its punch and its too bad that they don't make movies like this anymore. I remember when this movie came out. I was 14 years old and I thought it was going to be another one of those idiotic teen comedies and so forth. Boy, was I dead wrong. This movie had a lot to go for it especially during a decade where a lot of high school movies of the 80's consisted of "The Breakfast Club", "Sixteen Candles","Pretty In Pink","Fast Times At Ridgemont High", "The Last American Virgin" and so forth. Fame consisted of eight talented teenagers all hotly pursing their dreams at the prestigious New York's High School Of The Performing Arts. Its a stunning combination of drama and pathos,but in the same level it's an explosion of pulsating song and electrifying dance numbers that made this one of the most memorable movie musicals of the 1980's. Director Alan Parker(of Midnight Express,Mississippi Burning,and others)brings to the screen a profusion of fresh young talent in front of the camera and behind it(like choreographer Louis Falco and composer Micheal Gore who won Oscars for the film's dynamic score and the title song he co-wrote with lyricist Dean Pitchford). The action here is very intense as it spills all over the Big Apple from the shadows of 42nd Street to the bright lights of the great white way and not to mention the sequences around Times Square. As for the characters who were then unknowns at the time it was a stark reality check as it follows the lives of several individuals from different backgrounds. Some of them made it while the others were just getting by and the rest knew the getting their fame would cost them the ultimate price. However,there are some gaps in some of the characters but after seeing it again it makes you wonder after 20 years that this film still has the emotional pull and from there it never lets go. The soundtrack to this movie is still great even after 20 years later. If you have never seen this movie brace yourself for some roof raising pleasure cause from the beginning its one helluva ride. Make sure that you get the director's version which contains additional scenes that were cut from the original print. NOTE: "Fame" also brought some unknown talent like choreographer/dancer Gene Anthony Ray,and also singer/ songwriter Irene Cara(who would got on to become one of the biggest R&B/Pop singers of the decade--the Mariah Carey of her generation)and also two years later would become a subsequent TV series that would showcased the talents of Ray and other original cast members including Debbie Allen(which ran for five seasons ending its run in 1986). As for movie itself,its worth seeing.
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vocal major, 2005.
ayefrsty8 November 2005
I actually just graduated from LaGuardia HS, the HS that "Fame" was based on as a vocal major (2005). People do not know what LaGuardia HS is until I mention that it's the "Fame" school. In my four years of being a student there, I did not watch "Fame". In fact, I just saw it 4 days ago. There are two teachers from the movie that currently teach at LaGuardia, Penny Frank and Jim Moody.

There were some things that did not connect, obviously. For instance, you would never do pointe freshman year. It captured the student's spirits very well, however we never broke into song and dance during lunch, we were too busy eating!! Some people will have their instruments and jam a bit in the lunchroom or senior lounge. In between breaks, the dance majors are still in their leotards grabbing lunch. Music majors have blackout days, where they come into school directly into the concert hall and not class and rehearse all day. What I do miss about the school is seeing people cut class to hang out in the hallway and work on their harmonies. Figuring out math problems while down the hall, a class would be studying their new Italian aria.

I did not feel as if the movie was amazing. In terms of capturing the spirit of the students, it was incredible. The struggles that all the students went through was definitely a reality. There were many things left out in the movie, especially the endings of various situations between the students.

I miss LaGuardia though. Never will I go to a school like that with people as interesting. I'm in college now and haven't really found people interesting enough to stimulate my mind. I am proud to be a graduate of the Fame school, for it was the best four years of my life.
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GREAT songs but has serious problems in drama
preppy-36 April 2005
Film follows a bunch of students in the NYC High School of the Performing Arts. There's Coco (Irene Cara) a black singer who WILL make it to the top despite everything. She's helped by Bruno (Lee Curren) a white musician. Then there's Doris (Maureen Teefy) who wants to be an actress--but she's shy and scared. She becomes friends with Motgomery (Paul McCrane)--purportedly the only gay student in the school and is romanced by Raul (Barry Miller). Then there's Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray--who sadly died in 2003) who's homeless and a great dancer--but can't read. Then there's various teachers (Albert Hague, Anne Meara stand out) trying to teach the kids.

The songs are GREAT (the title tune and "Out Here On My Own" were nominated for Best Song--"Fame" won), the dances are energetic and the young cast shows plenty of ambition and talent. BUT this film misses the boat in the drama department. Many plot lines are brought up and completely left open-ended by the end of the movie. Why did Coco do a porno? Did Doris and Raul remain together afterwords? Did either make it? How about Montgomery--what happened to him? And did Leroy ever graduate--and how? There are too many long speeches (Raul has two) and moments that just lead to nothing. I'm assuming there were cuts in the script--I can't believe the movie just left all this open.

Still, it's worth seeing for the acting and, again, the music. There's basically not one bad song and the dances go full force (and at one point stop traffic--literally!). My favorites are "Fame", "Out Here..." and "I Sing the Body Electric" which is a great closing song. So I recommend it but can only give it a 7--the script really needed to tie up loose ends--and it didn't.

Trivia: They wanted to shot this film at the actual School for Performing Arts but couldn't get permission. The dean of the school read the script and said there was way too much swearing in the film. That is true--there is a LOT of foul language but that's how high school kids talk. Avoid the TV version which abysmally overdubs it.
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Too obnoxious to care about
JamesHitchcock24 December 2009
Although the traditional cinema musical, generally based upon a successful Broadway show, went into something of a decline in the late seventies and eighties, this period saw the rise of a new musical genre based around dance and pop music. Like "Saturday Night Fever" and its sequel "Staying Alive", "Flashdance", "Grease" and "Dirty Dancing", "Fame" is an example of this trend. The original title for the film was, apparently, to have been "Hot Lunch ", but this had to be changed when director Alan Parker realised that there was already a pornographic film with the same title. The change was doubtless one for the better; I cannot really imagine Irene Cara singing "Hot Lunch! I'm Gonna Live Forever!"

The film follows a group of students through their studies at the New York High School of Performing Arts, which was a real institution at the time. It is split into sections entitled "Auditions", "Freshman Year", "Sophomore Year", "Junior Year" and "Senior Year", and hence takes place over a time-span of some four years. The opening scenes have something of the feel of a "fly on the wall" documentary about them, As the film progresses we get to know the various students and something of their stories. New York, of course, is a famously multi-ethnic city, and the film-makers were obviously keen to reflect this racial diversity by including at least one representative of most of the city's various ethnic groups (Jewish, Hispanic, Italian, Black, Irish and WASP).

Dance student Leroy Johnson struggles with his academic work, which at this school is given equal weighting with performance, because he is illiterate. Lisa Monroe, another dance student, is dismissed from the course for not working hard enough, and switches to the drama department. Montgomery MacNeil, a drama student, comes out as gay, probably a more daring plot-line in 1980 than it would be today, when it is virtually compulsory for every high school drama to have a token gay character. I wondered if his Christian name was a reference to the gay film star Montgomery Clift.

Raul Garcia, an aspiring stand-up comic, prefers to be called Ralph Garcey in order to hide his Puerto Rican background. His great ambition is to be the next Freddie Prinze- not the future Mr. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who would only have been four years old in 1980, but his father Freddie senior, another Puerto Rican comedian who died in 1977. Unfortunately Ralph seems to feel that the best way of achieving this ambition is to ape Prinze's self-destructive lifestyle.

"Fame" was clearly popular in the early eighties, spawning a television series and a stage musical. That irritatingly catchy theme song provided Cara with a huge chart hit. The basic concept is obviously still thought to be a viable one, because there has been a recent remake (which I have not seen). Yet like many of the musicals of this period, although not perhaps as much as the likes of "Saturday Night Fever", the original film seems rather dated today. (The one which seems to have held up the best is "Grease", probably because that was always intended as a defiantly deliberate anachronism, being twenty years behind the times even when it is made).

The song-and-dance numbers are lively enough, even if the music is not always to my personal taste. Yet there are other reasons, quite apart from its old-fashioned feel, why "Fame" is not my favourite film. One is that, despite the film's apparent aim of celebrating New York's ethnic diversity, too many characters are seen in terms of ethnic stereotypes. (African-Americans are bolshie with a bad attitude, Hispanics ditto, Jewish mothers are domineering and over-protective, etc.)

Another reason I didn't like the film much is that too many of the characters are just too obnoxious to care about. I would agree with the reviewer who found Ralph a "boorish self-centred jerk" but unlike that reviewer I found several of the other characters equally unpleasant. I could not sympathise with the bad-tempered, petulant Leroy and his frequent outbursts of rage, mostly directed at his long-suffering English teacher. Nor with Ralph's girlfriend Doris Finsecker, as keen to deny her Jewish identity as he is to deny his Hispanic one. (She renames herself "Dominique DuPont", largely because she knows this will annoy her mother). Nor with the bone-idle Lisa.

Irene Cara's character Coco Hernandez is difficult to sympathise with for another reason; not because she is a jerk but because she seems too naive to be true. She is taken advantage of by a man posing as a film director who offers her a "screen test"; she turns up at his apartment even though he is played as an obviously sleazy sexual predator. (Had he seemed more plausible this plot line would have had more credibility). Montgomery is one of the film's few likable characters, but the film does not concentrate on his story to any great extent. He largely functions as the school's kindly agony uncle, a shoulder for his heterosexual classmates to cry on.

My final complaint about the film is that there are too many main characters. Even the film's two and a half hour running time is inadequate to do justice to all these stories, some of which could have provided enough material for a whole film in their own right, and few of them are fully developed. Alan Parker has made some excellent films, including "Mississippi Burning" and "Evita", but "Fame" is not really one of them. It is perhaps ironic for a film with this particular title that few of its stars, except Cara, went on to achieve any great fame of their own. 5/10
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I hadn't remembered it being this bad
twiss5423 July 2002
My wife and I both remembered this film being a lot better than it is. When we rented it last weekend, we wondered if we were watching the same movie we had seen 22 years or so ago. We both agreed that we were probably remembering the TV series, which, in its one-hour segments, was compelled to actually wrap up plot lines. This movie leaves many loose threads, as has been mentioned by others here... basically every main character's story line is left unresolved.

Gotta like the title song, though.
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Fame: 2/10
movieguy10211 May 2004
Fame did something odd. It was not only a musical that was created originally for the screen (most are based off of Broadway musicals), but it spawned a TV series and a Broadway musical. Let me correct that sentence. Fame is not a musical. Musicals have song numbers in order to advance the plot or to show characters' feelings. The singing in this music is not used to do either; in fact, there's no use for it at all. People just randomly sing to fit in with the plot. And that's not the type of musical I know.

The so-called plot of Fame has an onslaught of characters (who are all introduced at once-last time I saw that in a movie [Gosford Park] it had disastrous results) who audition for, and get into, New York High School for the Performing Arts. All of them are in for different reasons-i.e. acting, singing, etc. Quote-unquote drama unfolds as these middle-aged people pretending to be teenagers go through their four years.

My largest complaint is that the high school is supposed to be selective. After all, it's a free college, and they can't let everyone in. So how is it that some people who are really bad get into the college? Obviously so that drama could ensue between all of these different people. And why is the person top billed not even in the movie until near the end, for no reason at all, except to make us feel uncomfortable? There's many unsettling situations that these untalented people get into, yet you can't feel bad for them because you don't know who they are! These relationships occur between people whose names you don't know. And these characters realize things about themselves throughout the course of the movie, yet you don't realize that, because you don't know what they were like in the first place.

As for the singing, it pops in randomly (and is supposed to be humorous?) and does nothing. When the title song is sung, it's played in the middle of a street and before you can say Ferris Bueller everyone's in the middle of the street dancing wildly and off-beat to it. The song itself is fine, but the whole scene, like the whole movie, is unnecessary. Fame is an unpleasant movie, to say the least. I would say more, but most of the movie has thankfully gone out of my head. Just don't see it. You'll be doing yourself a favor.

My rating: 2/10

Rated R for language.
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not really good
thetoweriscloser28 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
There were very few good moments in this film. Only a couple of characters were fleshed out and not that well. There were plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. The pace creep-ed along like an old man. There were many moments that the film never came back to like Coco stripping. What happened to her? How about Garci's sister? Is she better now? What about Leroy? We learned absolutely nothing about him. What about the electronic piano guy? How about the rich girl that got an abortion? What happened to her? That was an interesting subplot.

Overall this is not a good movie and I recommend another musical that was in this film. LET'S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN!!!!!!!
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Less naff than you think
R_O_U_S20 January 2004
Of course this came out right at the beginning of the 1980s. Of course it did. Those drama students dancing in the street to Irene Cara's famous theme song, it's an indelible eighties leg-warmer style image. But there's more to the film than that. There's deprivation, and one man's struggle to learn to read, and a struggle with sexuality, and an attack on a child, and one girl tricked into taking topless photographs, and contemplation of suicide. In the end, though, it is also about that song.
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Past the freshness date around 1989
Ed-Shullivan16 September 2018
I have seen the film Fame a few times now over the past four (4) decades and unlike film classics such as (1961) West Side Story, or (1957) Jailhouse Rock, (1980) Fame is a period piece that may have had its admirers back in the early 1980's but it will never retain a film fan base such as the latter two films mentioned above.

Maybe the film was inspirational and maybe even slightly ahead of its time back in 1980, but it has quickly lost its lustre with each song and dance number played. Another sign that the film is past its freshness date is to ask yourself what ever happened to the cast members of the film Fame? Just like the picture, the film stars also quickly past their freshness date and as the film so have the actors fallen into obscurity.

I will kindly rate the film a generous 5 out of 10 rating.
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Entertaining musical drama that could have been better
TheLittleSongbird11 August 2014
Fame is, at least to me, not a flawless film and it is easy to see why people wouldn't like or connect with it, but I found it to be a good, entertaining film. It is true that Ralph is given too much prominence and he is never really likable while some of the other characters are barely fleshed out and that the ending is far too abrupt and riddled with loose ends that were crying out to be tied up. Some of the dialogue is also a little rambling in places and with a structure that could have been tighter than it was. Fame, while very of the time, is very competently made with the style of filming appropriate for the type of film and what themes are explored, that some of the song and dance numbers are shot like a music video didn't come across as that much of a problem personally. The songs are terrific, the timeless title song, the infectiously catchy Hot Lunch Jam and the poignant Out Here on My Own are the highlights though the ending number I Sing the Body Electric is fun enough too. The score also won an Oscar along with the title song and deserved it thoroughly. The choreography is toe-tapping and spirited, especially in I Sing the Body Electric. The story captures the high school performing arts atmosphere really well, how fulfilling and fun yet punishing and competitive it is and has themes that anyone would relate to, ones that were relevant then and while not as much reasonably relevant now. While the characterisation is not perfect, there are a few good characters like Leroy and Coco. The performances show the actors very into their roles and enjoying them, Barry Miller does overact but if there was a favourite in the cast it would be Irene Cara, who had the best singing voice of the cast and the one with the best songs. In conclusion, has some imperfections in the writing department but musically especially the film while an acquired taste was personally entertaining. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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Prepare for 80's nostalgia
Naughtia_Nah2 September 2011
I only watched this movie because I wanted to see it before I'm going to watch the new version.

'Fame' is from the early eighties and one can clearly see and hear the stereotypical eighties' fashion style and music style. This gives me a somewhat nostalgic feeling of that period.

The movie follows some students as they strive to become successful performing artists. They all go to school in New York and they all have so many hopes for their future.

You really get to feel the eighties' spirit when you watch this movie and the movie has probably been spectacular at the time it premiered but I think that the eighties are very weird and entertaining. This movie is a classic of its time and I'm now looking forward to seeing the new up-to-date version of this same story.
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jboothmillard31 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know if I would class this as a musical, but it is certainly a teen drama with some songs and performances in it that I wanted to try, from BAFTA nominated director Alan Parker (Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning). Basically the story is set at New York High School for the Performing Arts, where the newest students are training to achieve their goals to become great singers, actors and performers. The four students that the film mainly follows are black wannabe starlet Coco Hernandez (Golden Globe nominated Irene Cara), shy and less than confident Doris Finsecker (Maureen Teefy), gay and sensitive Montgomery MacNeil (Paul McCrane), and the often aggressive Raul Garcia (Barry Miller). The film follows their journey from auditioning to be in the school, singing and dancing rehearsals, personal downfalls in their bid to get somewhere, including Coco unintentionally going into pornography, and of course graduation with the whole gang performing on stage. Also starring Eddie Barth as Angelo, Lee Curreri as Bruno, Laura Dean as Lisa Monroe, Antonia Franceschi as Hilary Van Doren, Boyd Gaines as Michael and Gene Anthony Ray as Leroy. I mainly heard about the film first because of the title song "Fame" going to number one in the UK, and then again when Justin Lee Collins tried to get Irena Cera on board for the Bring Back... Fame reunion, which she refused. I will be honest in saying that I wasn't completely interested in the story, more the singing and dancing, but even that didn't stop me thinking this wasn't really my cup of tea, but it certainly wasn't bad. It won the Oscar for Best Music for Michael Gore and Best Song for the title song (it also won the Golden Globe), and it was nominated for Best Film Editing, Best Song for "Out Here on My Own", Best Sound and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, it won the BAFTA for Best Sound, and it was nominated for the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music and Best Editing, and it was nominated the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy and Best Original Score. Okay!
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