I Used to Be Famous (2022)

I Used to Be Famous
Director: Eddie Sternberg
Writer: Eddie Sternberg, Zak Klein
Based on: Sternberg’s short film
Cast: Ed Skrein, Leo Long, Eleanor Matsuura, Eoin Macken, Lorraine Ashbourne, Neil Stuke, Kurt Egyiawan
Seen on: 27.12.2022

Decades ago, Vince (Ed Skrein) used to be part of a successful boyband. But things fell apart. He has never given up on his dream of being able to live off his music again, but nowadays this just means him busking in the marketplace with his keyboard, hoping to not be recognized as Vinnie D, the former boyband star. One day as he plays, Stevie (Leo Long) starts drumming along on the garbage can next to him and the result is magic. Vince hopes that he has finally found the missing ingredient for his success. But he has to convince Stevie’s mother Amber (Eleanor Matsuura) first. Since Stevie is barely 18 and autistic, Amber is very reluctant about that partnership, but Stevie insists and the two hit it off.

I Used to Be Famous is sweet, albeit a little messy. It gets many things right, especially with casting an autistic person as Stevie, but it might be a little too much at times, too.

The film poster showing Vince (Ed Skrein) and Stevie (Leo Long) sitting on a park bench. Vince has a keyboard in front of him, Stevie is playing drums on a garbage can.

I Used to Be Famous is a music film in a way, but the music – that I quite liked – isn’t actually that important. It is more about what it could mean to the people who make it. Vince is so busy trying to be famous again that he seems to have forgotten that music can be more than just a vehicle to success. For Stevie, it is pretty much everything, but now it is his ticket to more independence and adulthood.

Skrein and Long do a really nice job with their roles and how their characters take to each other. Their friendship is a little unlikely, but it works. (Though the parallels between Stevie and Vince’ younger brother may have been a little over the top.) But it also doesn’t come as that much of a surprise when it doesn’t last forever. Or maybe it does? What I found a little creepy is the way Stevie’s music therapist tries to rope Vince into taking over the group therapy. Vince shows up a few times, has a succesful connection with Stevie and one other kid and he is treated as the music therapy messiah. The film never really thinks this through and doesn’t come to any real conclusions there.

Vince (Ed Skrein) and Stevie (Leo Long) sitting on a couch in front of Stevie's apartment building. Vince is playing on a keyboard and Stevie is drumming on different bins and cans.

And it is not the only time that the film drops a plot point, but the most egregious one is when Stevie sets out on its own to organize a concert for him and Vince to play. It’s a challenging thing for him, speaking to many strangers, putting himself out there. And he is successful – but then the film never shows us the concert itself? Maybe it didn’t happen at all? We don’t know. I mean, you could say that it was more important for Stevie to set out than to get any specific result, but it still felt pretty frustrating to me as an audience – like the film forgot about it and not like it made a conscious choice.

That being said, I did enjoy I Used to Be Famous. It won’t be my movie of the year or anything, but it was cute and heatfelt. I definitely don’t regret having seen it – especially because of Long’s excellent turn.

Stevie (Leo Long) and his mother Amber (Eleanor Matsuura) looking very content.

Summarizing: cute.

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