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The Hollywood Insider I Used to be Famous Review

Photo: ‘I Used to Be Famous’

 Netflix‘s latest release ‘I Used to Be Famous‘ is an adaptation from an award-winning short film that shares the same name, written and directed by Eddie Sternberg. Now Sternberg took it upon himself to direct the full-feature version of it.  ‘I Used to Be Famous’ concentrates on a has-been boyband member named Vince Denham (played by Ed Skrein), who used to be in a group called Stereo Dream.  It has been twenty years since he performed on stage with his other boy band members. Things do not look good for the main character since he wanders around London as he faces rejection from other auditions. At one point, he encounters Stevie (played by Leo Long) who has autism but has the talent for drumming. As Vince witnesses his talent, he immediately gets passionate about what he has witnessed. It’s a film that demonstrates an unexpected encounter between two different individuals. From what I’ve described so far, it makes it seem as if it is going to be a Hallmark film but without the Christmas setting. There are going to be some dark moments that will make viewers cry since fame does have a dark side.  Nonetheless, viewers will be uplifted by the story’s optimistic side of the art of failure. After all, it is a happy accident that two wandering souls have an unexpected friendship. 

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A Tale of an Unexpected Friendship

‘I Used to be Famous’ focuses on the result of having dreams crushed by harsh realities. The main character yearns to be redeemed. Vince sees something special in Stevie. He perhaps sees a bit of himself in Stevie. Vince wants the young drummer to succeed and to make something out of his talent. He takes it upon himself to collaborate with the young talent in the hopes of rekindling his career. However, the audience sees that Stevie’s viewpoint on his talent isn’t how Vince sees it. The way that Stevie sees music is a perfect opportunity to bring people together and to experience something wonderful. As the story progresses, Vince starts to change his perspective on music. The greatest thing about music is how one feels about creating and listening to their own work. It is also an escape from a reality that they are not accustomed to. Some people will also be reminded of the Shia LaBeouf movie ‘Peanut Butter Falcon.’ The movie does feature a troubled main character who also strikes up a friendship with a mental disability. Throughout their journeys of getting to know each other, both movies include two characters learning lessons or new philosophies of life that are influenced either by one with down syndrome, and in Stevie’s case, autism. 

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Truth and Fiction

As I mentioned before, the film is based on the short film of the same name. However, the director created Stevie’s character and made it based on his cousin, Saul Zur-Spzpiro, an autistic and talented musician. He even formed a band called The AutistiX, which involves autistic and nonautistic members. Over the years, the band even had a following, which gave them the opportunity to tour and play live in front of an audience. 

‘I Used to Be Famous’ – Nostalgia vs. Enjoying the Moment

The story focuses on how the two main characters have different viewpoints on dealing with their lives through music. The characters are very likable, we do not want to see them fail in life. It is also important that these two characters have very different personalities but shares the same interest in music. The story provides the perfect blend of heart and humor to remind ourselves not to take life too seriously. The audiences enjoy seeing Vince become less self-centered with the sadness of his own failure of not making it to the mainstream and accepting the death of his brother. Meanwhile, it is Leo Long’s first role by playing Stevie. It is a fitting role for him since he is a neurodiverse individual in real life. The director thought it would be a good idea for Leo to take the role instead of an actor who is not neurodiverse in any way whatsoever. The upcoming actor even has an extensive background in music. It was not hard for the director to work with Long.

The way he plays the drummer differs from other depictions of drummers such as Miles Teller’s protagonist in ‘Whiplash.’ That character wanted to be the best drummer because he was pushed to do so by a sociopathic music teacher (played by J.K Simmons). Another drummer movie that comes to mind is Riz Ahmed’s character in the ‘Sound of Metal.’ Riz Ahmed plays a musician who becomes deaf because of a result of hearing loud live music with heavy metal bands over the years. Our drummer for ‘I Used to Be Famous’ is different. He was born with autism but still has the natural gift of being the best drummer than the average player. His persona isn’t aggressive like the past drummers that I have mentioned. Stevie just loves to play for the sake of music. 

Vince is also a likable character for striking up a friendship with Stevie and helping him realize his full potential as a drummer. However, at some moments, Vince’s motives are done for his personal gains because he’s the victim of living in the past. The only time he is able to show some change over the years is the mature sound of the music that he’s been dying to show to pub owners. It’s very obvious that he must collaborate with Stevie in order to relive his career as a pop artist. 

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In Conclusion

The film will be enjoyed by families. It is a heartwarming story about an unexpected friendship between a has-been pop star and a gifted neurodiverse individual. The movie caters a beautiful message on how music brings wandering souls together. Vince thought he would have taught his fellow musician a thing or two about his talent. However, it was Stevie that taught Vince to put his ego aside and to enjoy making his product of music instead of being the product for music companies. 

Director: Eddie Sternberg

Writers:Eddie Sternberg and Zak Kleinr

Starring Ed Skrein, Eoin Mackent, Loraine Ashbourne. 

Distributor: Netflix

By Marco Castaneda

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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