A simplistic but heartwarming story about two unlikely friends
I Used To Be Famous, based on the short film of the same name by director Eddie Sternberg, follows the story of Vince and Stevie, two people with vastly different backgrounds who form an unlikely friendship.
Vince (Ed Skrien) is a former boy band member who has now fallen on hard times after a successful early career. To make money, he now busks on the streets of London but, despite his former celebrity status, very few people recognise his face or his talents.
Stevie (newcomer Leo Long) is a young man with aspirations of going to music college. Unfortunately, his over-protective mother Amber is doubtful of his dreams, largely because Stevie is on the autistic spectrum.
The chances of a happy future are slim for them both but when Vince meets Stevie and discovers his drumming ability, he sees another chance at fame.
Vince manages to persuade Amber to let her son play alongside him at a gig but when it goes badly wrong, she forbids him from seeing her son again. This is heartbreaking for both Vince and Stevie as they both recognise their own potential for musical stardom. Vince later manages to make Amber change her mind and he is given the opportunity to reconnect and perform with Stevie again. But when Vince is then offered a chance to perform with a former bandmate who has formed a successful career, he is suddenly faced with a choice.
Should he grab his second chance at fame on the world stage? Or should he continue his friendship with Stevie and support the young man with his musical dreams?
I’m not going to reveal any spoilers here but if you would like to learn more, you should check out our Ending Explained article or watch the movie for yourself. Of course, it might be that you’re more concerned about the quality of the movie and its handling of autism than its eventual outcome.
Well, I’m glad to report that the movie is a pretty good one, with excellent performances from Skrien and Long and a storyline that isn’t overly sentimental, despite a tragic plot point that forms a part of Vince’s journey. The music sequences are very good too and this is thanks to the musical talents of the two leads who have both had musical careers outside of acting.
I’m also happy to report that I Used To Be Famous doesn’t offend in its handling of autism. Leo Long, who makes his acting debut in the movie, is actually on the autistic spectrum himself. Casting him was the right choice as he brings a level of authenticity to the performance, without a reliance on the overly dramatic tics and twitches that neurotypical actors Dustin Hoffman and Maddie Ziegler demonstrated when they took on the roles of autistic characters in Rain Man and Music respectively. The latter movie was particularly offensive with its inaccurate portrayal of autistic behaviours and was rightly slammed for its outdated ideas about the disability.
Long isn’t the only neurodivergent actor in the movie as the director also chose several other neurodivergent actors to fill the roles of Stevie’s musical therapy group. It’s great to see a director making such wise casting choices. Not only has Sternberg sidestepped accusations of non-authentic casting as a consequence, but he has given an actor such as Long the opportunity to show that people with autism shouldn’t be overlooked because of their disability.
The young actor impresses in his debut role and it can be hoped that he will go on to have a long and successful career as either an actor or a musician (or both).
But for all of its positives, the movie isn’t as strong as it could have been and this is because of the screenplay which doesn’t always convince. Amber is quick to allow Vince back into Stevie’s life, for example, despite telling him, in the strongest terms, to stay away from her son. There’s another scene in the movie where Vince is asked to take over the role of teacher at Stevie’s music therapy group after he manages to make a breakthrough with one of the students. This breakthrough scene doesn’t ring true and the fact that the teacher is quick to hand over the reins to Vince, who is new to the group, also seems a little implausible.
It’s easy to overlook these flaws, however, as it’s the bond between Vince and Stevie that matters the most here. They are both likeable characters and they aren’t written according to stereotypes. So, while some of the plot points surrounding them stretch credibility, we can still believe in their friendship because they both come across as real people and not fanciful characters.
I Used To Be Famous is an enjoyable movie with lots of touching moments and an ending that manages to bring a tear. It could have had a stronger script but it still manages to engage thanks to the strong lead performances and its inspirational story.
Read More: I Used To Be Famous Ending Explained
Verdict - 6.5/10