Alan Parker's '80s time-capsule musical about the hit-or-miss American Dream is better and more boldly brusque than the TV show it inspired. Don't be fooled, though: this is no lost classic.
Following eight all-singing, all-dancing wannabes across four years at the New York High School for the Performing Arts, Fame is a busy but frustratingly cramped affair. Do they rise above clichés? Does the narrative work up momentum? Barely. The plot splits the patchily drawn characters into both couples (blossoming wallflower/tortured troublecauser; black street kid/posh ballet bird) and outsiders (ugly duckling/mother-fixated gay wimp). But it's difficult to care about their doldrums, desires and dance moves all the way to the end.
Parker's film is peppy and never dull. But it does feel like a pilot, with its strictly slimline material and numerous loose threads. The TV series picked them up but really, you don't want to go there.