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I Used to be Famous review: Albeit predictable, Ed Skrein, Leo Long’s musical drama is uplifting and heartfelt nonetheless

Director Eddie Sternberg makes a sincere attempt to illustrate the autistic experience as realistically as possible, by casting actually disabled actors and drawing on lived experiences of autistic people.

3/5rating
I Used to be Famous review: Albeit predictable, Ed Skrein, Leo Long’s musical drama is uplifting and heartfelt nonetheless

  • Shilpa S

Last Updated: 08.08 AM, Sep 17, 2022

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Story:

Twenty years after being a part of one of the popular boy band Stereo Dream, Vince, aka Vinnie D, finds himself struggling to focus on his music. Unable to finish his compositions and finding it difficult to book even a single gig, Vince’s life changes for the better when he crosses paths with a young autistic drummer named Stevie. Together the duo embark on a journey of self-improvement, as Vinnie becomes Stevie’s mentor.

Review:

Proper disabled representation in cinema is something disability advocates have lobbied for, for quite a while. Even though filmmakers have definitely become more sensitive in their depictions of the diabled community, proper representation still has a long way to go, especially since even today, disabled actors portraying disabled roles is quite a rarity. In his feature directorial debut, Eddie Sternberg made sure to not let the disabled community down, by making sure to cast disabled actors in disabled roles and drawing upon the actual lived experiences of the autistic community to helm an uplifting musical drama.

I Used to be Famous’ premise is far from novel. A washed out musician, Vinnie, once a member of the popular boy band Stereo Dream, now lives in the shadow of his former glory. Twenty years after the peak of his musical career, Vinnie struggles to book musical gigs, even after unabashedly name-dropping his involvement in Stereo Dream at several prospective gig venues. Adding to his frustrations is the fact that his former bandmate Austin went on to establish himself as a successful solo artist.

Vinnie’s luck changes as he meets Stevie, a young autistic drummer who joins him in an impromptu jam session in public. After realising that the young man’s music perfectly complements his own, Vinnie decides to mentor Stevie, and the duo decide to make their mark in the music world.

Although the film is at its crux, Vinnie’s story, Sternberg seems to have consciously give Stevie’s story the same weight as the former’s, rather than reducing the young man as a sidekick in Vinnie’s journey of redemption. The way Vinnie and Stevie interact make for some of the most endearing moments in the film, as music becomes the glue that bonds the two together. The writing lays out Vinnie’s growth arc beautifully, and Ed Skrein’s raw performance as the troubled musician hits all the nails on the head.

I Used to be Famous does a lot of things right when it comes to disabled representation, starting with hiring an autistic actor, Leo Long, to portray the role of Stevie. From the way the character is written, it is obvious that the writers took the time and effort to put in the work to understand the nuances of the autistic experience, rather than resorting to harmful stereotypes that mainstream cinema is rife with. Stevie’s autism is interwoven into the story in a way that never suggests that it is a crutch that needs to be gotten rid of. Rather, the film portrays how the autistic young man’s struggles are exacerbated due to the insensitivity of the environment he finds himself in. The way he thrives by getting accommodations and support also helps dispel a lot of harmful stereotypes perpetuated against the autistic community. Long also does an exemplary job at essaying his character in the most compelling way possible.

But despite the hits, the film has its fair share of misses as well, the biggest being the predictable nature of its story. Despite the nuances when it came to Stevie and Vinnie’s characterisation, the duo’s story takes the usual course that one might expect from a feel good drama.

Verdict:

I Used to be Famous ticks all the right boxes when it comes to proper disbled representation, witnessed its sensitive characterisations of the disabled protagonist. Despite being predictable and rife with cliches, the musical drama offers a heartfelt and uplifting tale of loyalty and friendship.

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