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Famous (2023)

Famous is referred to as an “urban opera” and the story of Famous (Brendan Jeffers), a successful rapper with a troubling life. His step-brother is causing issues in his life, the woman that he’s just fallen for isn’t all that thought, and his step-father continues to put so much pressure on him that he’s incapable of living up to expectations. His life seems to be spiraling out of control, and only he can get it back on track.

The team behind Famous described their film as being opera-like, and it’s an astute observation by that team. The film combines elements of the opera and soap operas to create something that exists sort of left of center–outside of the norm in a lot of ways. Sure, Famous is the story about a rapper, and it’s no surprise to viewers that the film focuses heavily on music–but it’s not the style of music that those viewers might initially expect. This team quickly pulls us into an electric soundscape, one that transcends a series of different genres and promises to entertain a wide range of viewers. From hip-hop to gospel music, this film explores music in a number of ways, ways that allow this film to be far reaching and accessible to many.

Speaking of music, it seems impossible to ignore the fact that the soundtrack features one artist and one artist alone–Friyie. I can’t be sure if this is a household name in his home of Toronto, or if I’ve just managed to firmly plant myself underneath a rock, but this is someone that I’m completely unfamiliar with. With that being said, he’s brilliant. His lyrics are clever, his sound crisp, and his ability to supplement Famous is impeccable. He’s the perfect choice for Famous, and he finds success every step of the way.

In many of the more dramatic and intense moments strewn throughout the film (and drama is the catalyst for many of the things that happen throughout the course of the film), the film fails to deliver something relevant. I think most viewers will be able to make connections between many of the situations in which Famous finds himself–but there’s something missing in the more pivotal moments of the film.

The biggest issue is that Famous move far too quickly. I feel that the length of the film is adequate, and that Writer-Director Martha McGrath provides herself enough time to bring this story to life–but Famous fails to adhere to a realistic timeline, one that feels natural and/or accessible. Furthermore, these moments, much like the film as a whole, fail to develop at an appropriate rate. Things come about very quickly, and in these independently-powerful moments, the emotion that should have been developed over some period of time just attempts to appear and reach viewers. Emotions don’t work this way, and Famous fails to realize this from beginning to end–forcing those moments to fail in a number of ways.

Famous has the potential to be a riveting film that reaches viewers from around the world–because the scenarios depicted on screen make sense to us (even if they aren’t developed at an appropriate rate). With that the film never really gets moving, and it becomes incredibly difficult to remain focused. Emotion falls by the wayside, rarely to be seen in an appropriate fashion–and it’s the music that ultimately allows the film to find any bit of success. Famous isn’t all that it promises to be, but it has its moments.

Written & Directed by Martha McGrath.

Starring Brendan Jeffers, Brian Bisson, Aisha Evelyna, Peter Nelson, Sam Asante, etc.




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