Saturday, September 17, 2022

I Used to Be Famous: Movie Review

Lovely and tender with some nice music.
Vinnie D (Ed Skrein) was a member of a boy band 20 years ago, but now spends his time busking along sidewalks and in city parks around Peckham, London. Life has not been easy for him since the time in rock stardom. I Used to Be Famous is a surprisingly tender tale of music in unexpected places; however, with sadness and despair constantly percolating through the air it can be a difficult watch.   2022

Directed by: Eddie Sternberg

Screenplay by: Eddie Sternberg

Starring: Ed Skrein, Eoien Macken

One day with his synth keyboard on an ironing board, trying to write music in a square in the middle of town, there’s a kid who keeps interrupting his rhythm with drumsticks on a trash can. Vinnie at first is annoyed until he realizes he’s adding to his music, not taking away from it. The crowd loves it, the kid’s mother not so much. Stevie (Leo Long) is an eighteen-year-old with autism. He likes drumming, but his mother keeps him sheltered from everything else since he doesn’t handle noise, or crowds or change or anything outside of his world very well.

Littered with flashbacks, Vinnie had a brother who looked a lot like Stevie and suffered presumably from autism or another similar disorder. There are a few obvious storylines coming up with this including that Vinnie loved his brother but didn’t make much time for family once he became famous; the other is that Vinnie is going to be able to form a connection with Stevie that his mother isn’t expecting.

A lot of this movie is just about creating music, using music as therapy, and using it to help a community. There’s a music group that meets in the back room of a church, its members include Stevie, his mother, and a number of other shy, autistic and immigrant people who are using music to help open up and make friends with others in the group. Similarly, Vinnie and Stevie are creating music out of his synth keyboard on an ironing board, and a drum set that includes pots and pans.

The music itself is mostly unexpected given Vinnie’s roots from a pop boy band, but it’s also interesting to listen to, especially if you’re just walking through a city park and stumble upon this unlikely duo.

Of course there’s a lot of conflict, because it would be too easy just to have nice things. Primarily, Vinnie just wants to be famous again, trying to reconnect with a former bandmate and manager who want him to dump Stevie; Stevie’s mother, Amber, instantly hates Vince and spends most of the movie trying to keep him out of their life. I Used to Be Famous would likely flow better if time was cut and reduced a lot of this conflict. It’s a lovely and tender movie with some nice music but it chooses sadness and despair more often than not.

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