Netflix’s I Used to be Famous follows a former pop star, Vince (Ed Skrein), who struggles to make a name for himself in the once again. He incidentally runs into a talented drummer named Stevie (Leo Long) and they start working on music that might get them recognition.
I Used to be Famous introduces a famous UK boy-band from 2002 called Stereo Dream. The collective of five is led by Vince AKA Vinnie D and Austin Roberts. The plot then fast forwards to 20 years later where Vince is now a nobody, desperate to make ends meet.
Living in Peckham, London he goes from bars to restaurants trying to get a live music gig. Unfortunately, nobody really pays attention to his stuff.
While busking on the streets one day, he has an impromptu jam session with a talented drummer named Stevie, who is on the autism spectrum. The mini performance is enjoyed by the locals and some even record it.
From there, Vince runs into Stevie again and this time the two get to know each other. The former manages to book them a gig based on their previous street performance, which went viral online.
The thorn that stands in their way is Stevie’s protective mother Amber who believes that performing live is not good for his health. As Vince tries to convince Amber of the potential Stevie has, he is forced to face his own demons from the past.
I Used to be Famous boasts of very strong performances by the lead cast. Ed Skrein as Vince is spectacular. His in-depth take on desperation and internal struggles is spot on. You can feel the suppressed emotions inside him as he unfurls them layer by layer.
Debutant Leo Long as Stevie is a pleasant surprise. His portrayal of an autistic young man hoping to face his limitations and achieve his musical dreams is as authentic as it gets. His character is limited in expressions but Long still manages to convey a million emotions with his performance.
Eleanor Matsuura as Amber is yet another powerful performance. She plays the overprotective single mother who can fight the world for her son. To see her character go on a journey where she learns to let Stevie be free and grow is delightful.
The biggest strength of I Used to be Famous is its ability to convey feelings and tug at your heartstrings. Watching this film is like going on an intense emotional journey in just 105 minutes.
The three main characters — Vine, Stevie and Amber — have a much needed depth to them. You get an idea of what makes them tick without making the film turn into an exposition heavy nightmare.
The narrative is full of subtlety, nuance, well produced music and the human experience. It brilliantly deals with themes of guilt, loss, fear, desperation, coping and dependency, among others. Furthermore, it showcases the healing ability of music in a beautiful way.
It also presents a great juxtaposition of varying relationships between characters. It is especially pleasant to witness Skrein’s and Long’s chemistry.
I Used to be Famous succeeds in execution but that does not change the fact that the film is extremely linear and predictable.
The plot is riddled with drama cliches and has nothing new to offer. Most of it was discernible from the trailer itself. It treats its characters extremely well but not its story.
In addition, director Eddie Sternberg’s decision to not reveal if Vince signed the contract is a bit annoying. It may make sense from a creative standpoint but after spending the entire film watching Vince struggle to get a gig, it is unfair to not clearly reveal his final decision.
What I Used to be Famous lacks in originality, it makes up in execution and performances. The film is definitely a must-watch and is sure to leave you reaching out for tissues in more than a few instances.
I Used to be Famous
Director: Eddie Sternberg
Date Created: 2022-09-16 23:14