Sunday, September 27, 2009
Jane and Katie see Fame
My daughter, Jane, loves movies and goes frequently, so the plan for her twenty-second birthday was to see a movie with Katie, her best friend from Special Olympics, and then have dinner at the Olive Garden. Jane chose Fame, a good choice.
Fame, the updated remake of the 1980 hit, is one big montage that cuts together scenes of young people singing, dancing, acting, and playing instruments during their four years at a performing arts high school in New York City. With very little dialogue or story, here are all the clichés – the bitter rapper-wannabe from the inner city; the hard-driven dancer who’s going to be the best; the classical pianist who goes against her father’s stringent control to become a hip-hop vocalist. We follow the hopes, the dreams, the ups, the downs, the successes, the failures, but it comes out all right for everyone, and the film ends with the students’ extravagant graduation performance that is a thrilling display of music and movement highlighted by some stunning slow-motion shots of perfect bodies flying across the stage.
Fame is a heart-warming, well-intended entertainment. It presents a Disney Channel-like fantasy world that shows teenagers who are beautiful or handsome, bright and talented, and if they are troubled, their troubles are solved by the end of the story. For Jane, a young woman with Down syndrome, this is exactly the kind of movie she wants to see, a perfect world that offers pure happiness, a world in which she can imagine what it might be like to be unencumbered by disability, a world she wants to revisit repeatedly.
There’s definitely a place in the world of cinema for a movie that’s a string of very familiar tropes embellished with great singing and dancing. For someone else, that special movie is a well-written, character-driven drama with intelligence and depth. For me, lately, it’s been Inglourious Basterds, a well-acted, meticulously orchestrated, suspenseful film that is a bold example of fine filmmaking.
Meanwhile, for Jane and Katie it was this free-spirited celebration of sound and motion. As the credits rolled, they impressed me with their knowledge of Disney Channel filmography, linking star Kay Panabaker with Phil of the Future and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle with Hannah Montana, and they turned to each other and said simultaneously, “I’m so seeing that again.” If a simple movie like this can bring such joy to two people, I thought, well, there’s good reason I have this passion for an artistic form of entertainment that holds a special power to delight the soul.