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Blu-ray Review: Fame (1980)

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1980’s Fame, from director Alan Parker, is focused on a group of talented kids attending a New York City public performing arts high school. The film follows a group of kids through the audition process and all four years of high school. The story is seen largely through the eyes of Doris, a shy actress who never feels she has that special spark to “make it.” In the beginning Doris is pushed into the auditions by an overbearing mother, who insists she sing “The Way We Were” for her acting audition. The auditions switch back and forth between drama, dance, and music. In one of the best sequences in the movie, each department head explains to the students why their discipline is harder than any of the others.

Fame attempts to deal with many issues of teenage life, life in the entertainment world, and social perceptions. Wannabe director Raul Garcia (Barry Miller) insists on being called Ralph Garcy in an effort to hide his Hispanic heritage. Ralph hides behind his funnyman bravado in order to hide his troubled family life. Another acting student, Montgomery MacNeil (ER’s Paul McCrane) is living in the shadow of his actress mother, and dealing with his homosexuality. Coco (singer Irene Cara), is a street smart singer, who falls prey to unscrupulous producers. Overall the film is not afraid to handle issues of sexuality, drug use, and the seedier sides of life. In that respect the film does well. It is unflinching and unapologetic in its depiction of teens on the verge of stardom, or failure.

Unfortunately Fame fails on pacing. The film drags through its two-hour-plus running time. At times it moves from scene to scene with no sense of purpose or flow. The acting is good, and the story at times is very good. I think a little tightening of the script would have made for a better movie. Then again Fame was nominated for six Academy awards, including one for Christopher Gore's screenplay. Personally, I would have liked a tighter story, but I do appreciate the rawness of the movie.

The Blu-ray 1080p picture is good. Certainly for a gritty 1980 movie, it looks great. The colors are rich and have a very natural look. The sound has options for TrueHD and Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound is very good. The documentary feel of the film is well represented in the soundtrack, with a wall of backgrounds from students, instruments, singing, dance steps, and New York City noise.

The features are imported from the 2003 DVD release and are presented in standard definition, aside from a widescreen enhanced trailer. There is audio commentary from director  Parker and some members of the cast. There are also a couple of production featurettes.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.
  • Andi B.

    Fame is one of my favorite movies from the 1980`s, and it´s good to know that is now also is available as a Blu-Ray disc. But it´s a pity that there are no new features. I already have the DVD version at home, so maybe I won´t buy the Blu-Ray disc as the only reason would be the better quality of sound and picture.