I Used To Be Famous

Where I watched It: Netflix

English Audio Description?: Yes

Narrated By: Neville Watchhurst (?)

If you ran into me on the street and i had five seconds to tell you whether or not you might like this, I would say… did you like About A Boy? Of all the films I had seen, that was the one that rang most true. I Used To Be Famous features a fallen, one time rock star trying to regain his footing, when he meets a boy on the spectrum, who is a phenomenal drummer. It’s a chance encounter, he knows nothing about the kid, but his gut instinct is that this kid has got real true talent. So, he tries to convince the boys mother to let them jam together, and help the boy explore his natural talents. Of course, with all films like this, not all of his demons are buried, his past comes back and looks him in the face, and he has to make tough choices. It’s very much one of those films, just with a character that has ASD.

Now, I do not know if the young man playing the character with ASD actually has ASD. I know that’s really super important to a lot of people, and I do not have that answer. It’s not as important to me, however, I always appreciate when the industry bothers to hire someone who actually has a specific affliction rather than having someone play pretend. And this is coming from a blind film critic. I wouldn’t be offended by an actor playing blind, but I’d be celebratory over the hiring of a blind actor.

One of the things this film does well is make this about the music, and this bond between this former rocker and this up and coming talent. It’s not some letch who is just trying to bang the mom. They don’t go down that road, and I appreciated that. She’s not even really that big of a fan of his, but can see that her son opens up to him, when he’s usually closed off. And we, the audience, experience that too, as he gets progressively more dialogue as the film moves along and is more self assured.

It does kind of follow the predictable tropes you’d expect otherwise though. Sometimes, formulas work, you make a slight tweak, and you submit it for the world to see. It won’t send your film to the BAFTA’s, but it makes for a good watch I’ll remember fondly.

On the audio description side, this is a mixed bag. on one hand, we have some stunning interpretive description, Ike someone who “responds sympathetically, but with a sense of urgency”. That’s a tough one to pull off, seeing one facial expression, but being able to read the conversation enough to understand the other layer contextually. Some people are not a fan of this style, but interpretive description can go a long way one day to helping blind people understand the visual natures of a film, the choices directors make. Film is still art, and often we focus on just the basics of the story, but so many directors make interesting visual choices that never translate to the screen. For example, recently Blonde released and director Andrew Domynck plays a lot with his visual aspects (from what I know), using color and black and white changes, blurring, slowing things down, and having things generally atypical of what you would find in a regular film. It’s hard to describe why people like films like this to a blind audience if the audio description never reflects these choices.

I already feel like I fight too many other battles in my review, trying to get the AD teams to take each genre specifically. Horror films need the gore described. Not doing so is pointless. If we don’t know why something is scary, or how a ghost looks, we don’t understand why other people around us are terrified. Most of the time, we just get the loud noise that accompanies the jump scare, and some generic quick name for whatever we saw, with very little description.

So I’m here for interpretive audio description whenever you can do it. I might be in the minority, but I think it could be the one thing that truly connects a blind audience to the form. Film is art, and art is more than just entrances and exits, basic facial expressions, and quick costume/hair references. Sometimes, it’s the intention of a shot, or in this films case, the intention of the actor.

On the other hand, the audio description disappears at times when it doesn’t need to. There was a prolonged concert sequence, where they could have jumped in during the breaks in singing, but made no effort. So, we get what we get.

I know it just feels like a random Netflix film, but it’s a pretty good one, considering their output this year.

Final Grade: B+

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