The opening of Michael Leoni’s Famous states that it was “filmed live on stage… at the height of the #MeToo movement.” As such, viewers immediately understand that this is a play and get a sense of the themes it wishes to explore. But, can the playwright/documentarian/director escape the staginess of theatrical productions and deliver something engrossing?
It is 1994, and Jason Mast (Josh Pafchek) has been nominated for Best Actor at the upcoming Academy Awards. Considering how young he is, the nomination surprises a lot of people, but they are happy for him. To that end, there’s a massive celebration happening at Jason’s palatial Hollywood estate. Everyone is there, including his brother Dylan (Cole Pendery), manager Celeste Whitley (Rosie De Candia), friend and fellow actor Ryan Logan (Landon Tavernier), up-and-comer Heather Hayes (Brooke Butler), and her boyfriend Brody (Donald Clark Jr.).
“…to reveal big-shot producer Jack Rossi for the scum he is.”
While the hangers-on and industry folks are living it up, Jason has holed himself up in his room, watching everyone’s interactions via cameras situated all over the house. It is only when talking to his brother and Ryan that a plan is discovered: to reveal big-shot producer Jack Rossi (Gregory DePetro) for the scum he is. Flashbacks show Jason’s tortured childhood at the hands of his exacting mother (Kendra Waldman) while also showing why he planned his revenge. Does Jason get what he’s wanted for all these years, or does the burden of trauma become too much for him?
Famous runs a little under two hours, and for part of that time, trying to distinguish between Jason and Ryan is a little tricky. The actors are fine but look enough like that sometimes, during the quickly paced, almost-strobe-lit opening, it actually got confusing to know which person one was looking at for that brief second. However, once all the major players are introduced, and backstories hashed out, this does go out the window, thankfully.
"…might be hard to sit through but demands that you watch it."