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Florida Film Festival review: FAME HIGH

April 4, 2013
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FAME HIGH

★★★★

There’s nothing completely unique about this film, which follows four students (Zak, Ruby, Grace and Brittany) through a school year at “Fame High,” the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, a rigorous public school that helps talented teens prepare for careers in the performing arts. Parents from all around LA – and even as far as the Midwest – try to get their precocious kids into the school, in the hope that they’ll get the ass-kicking training they need to polish their acting/music/dancing/theater careers. Although the kids are surprisingly professional in their approach to balancing career with teenage life, it becomes clear that the stress of being forced to grow up too fast takes its toll – and comes just as much from controlling parents as from within.

Grace struggles with not just the modern-dance techniques she needs to hone to get into Juilliard, but also with her traditional Korean parents, who won’t let her date and would prefer to see her become a doctor or professor rather than a dancer. Brittany faces the guilt that she and her mother left her two sisters and father behind (temporarily) so she could attend this school and have a shot at a singing career. Ruby expresses frustration that she just wants to be a teenager and “kiss boys,” but she feels pressure from her parents – both of whom are busy theater professionals – to follow in their footsteps. Zak is a talented pianist, but his father’s obsession with his son’s career distracts him from being able to focus on finding his true talents.

Fame High is both heartbreaking and inspirational – you can’t help but feel sympathy for these kids whose childhoods are consumed by anxiety about the future, but you also can’t help but root for them as they pursue the dreams that drive them (and their parents). – ES

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