I Used to Be Famous
I Used to Be Famous is a story of stumbling, getting lost, and finding one’s way back. Vince (Ed Skrein) is a washed-up rockstar struggling to get his music back on the map. By chance, he meets an extremely talented young man in Stevie (Leo Long). Vince is drawn to Stevie and his ability to play the drums, so they form a band together. The film is riddled with parallels that tug at the heart strings – from the dynamic between Vince and Stevie reflecting that of Vince and his late brother, to the mother-and-son relationships.
While individuals with autism and additional needs feature prominently here, unlike most portrayals, they are presented as more than just their disabilities. The production balances the idea of overcoming associated difficulties, while still acknowledging that there are struggles that come with being autistic. Everyone has different ways of coping and calming themselves, and music therapy is just one of the avenues available. There are also questions explored such as being true to oneself, the fast pace and pitfalls of the music industry, and adult and teenage friendships.
Ironically though, this is a very sensory experience: there are a lot of flashing lights and loud music. The pastel filter helps to ease the brightness and saturation of the picture, and the soundtrack is not too heavy, composed mostly of light music and acoustics. There’s plenty of movement in the cinematography, with characters constantly pacing and fidgeting onscreen, which makes for a very nervous atmosphere. The audio focuses on rhythms and isolated sounds like claps, beats of the drum and white noise drowning out conversations.
The highlight of I Used to Be Famous is definitely the way it showcases how the same strands of synth music can be used for different settings – from upbeat party, to something more uplifting, to nostalgia and lament, and to sadness and sorrow. That said, because the film focuses a lot on the back-and-forth of Vince and Stevie’s friendship, the earlier pacing allows very little time to develop the relationship between the two. The ending also offers no closure or answer to the last little threads of plot. This may be a deliberate choice but it’s a frustrating one for viewers nonetheless.
I Used to Be Famous is released on Netflix on 16th September 2022.
Watch the trailer for I Used to Be Famous here: