Fame is a fickle thing—one minute it has you on top of the world, the next it leaves you broken and alone. It can be a dream maker or ravenous monster. The semi-autobiographical Fame-ish, a witty play on the word “famous,” is a clever and surprisingly poignant meditation on fame, art, and celebrity wrapped in a cutesy screwball comedy. Writer, director, and star Jeff Nimoy—second cousin of famed Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy known for his voice over and directorial work in anime shows such as Digimon and Trigun—discovers the harsh truth that fame has an expiration date. He may have won an Emmy, but it was in the 90s; he may have found success, but it was only in what he considers to be a somewhat juvenile genre. Jeff desperately wants a job in reality television, but he doesn’t have the right credits.
His personal life is in shambles, too. The film slowly reveals his problems with drinking in the past, an over-reliance on Xanax (presented in a humorous running gag where every woman Jeff comes across has lots of the drug to offer), and abstinence from sex for 10 years. He feels washed up inside and out. But Jeff’s prospects turn around when he gets offered thousands to attend an anime convention—Geek Kon in Madison, Wisconsin. Jeff hasn’t been on the convention scene in awhile, since most of his time used to be spent seducing young fans, earning him a messy reputation. Strapped for cash and in need of validation, he decides to attend.
The con provides Jeff a much-needed ego boost and proves to be quite profitable after he learns to charge money for every autograph. His plethora of fans knight him the “Steven Spielberg of anime.” Although the bland, bright lighting of the ordinary hotel interiors are not particularly visually interesting, it is a very unique and fun environment to set a romantic comedy in. Filled with a collection of nerds in colourful costumes reflecting their comic book or anime obsessions, the setting is ripe for hilarious hi-jinks and wacky situations.
Fame-ish hosts a group of kooky characters: a young costumed fangirl named Lana Lang who stalks Jeff (the exceptionally wild Margo Graff) an overeager handler (a crazed Kimmy Schmidt-esque Allison Powell, shining particularly during a silly scene where she refuses to leave Jeff’s side until he enters his room), and Jeff’s bitter rival (Brian Donovan). After a dalliance with the Superwoman-dressed girl named Lana, he starts to fall for his co-worker Nikki (the winsome Nikki Boyer), who knocks him out of his decade-long rut. Hilarity ensues as Jeff’s turmoiled past meets his happy present and potential future with Nikki. The entire ensemble has an amiable, effortless energy that makes them a joy to watch.
The endearing Fame-ish has a sharp, side-splitting script filled with pop culture references and amusing meta-humour for fans of Nimoy or his work. A sweet, catchy pop soundtrack provides the film a buoyant energy. At the heart of Fame-ish is Nimoy’s fantastically fearless performance where off-the-wall silliness, sardonic humour, and self-deprecation envelops a wellspring of hurt. Nimoy brings a resonant pathos to the role, as his conflicted internal life and quest to better himself feels authentic and moving. The ending wake-up call for Jeff’s character from a passionate fan is a bit shoe-horned, but it is nevertheless a touching emotional moment that Nimoy performs beautifully. Aside from being a rib-tickling rom-com, Fame-ish deeply resonates with artists of all kinds. All artists are struck by a deep fear of failure that leads them to constantly search for a success that can never be topped; Nimoy superbly conveys this with droll humour and an observant eye. Featuring a stellar lead performance and dynamic ensemble, Fame-ish is both a delightful romantic comedy and poignant reflection on fame and self-actualisation. You’ll love every minute of this quirky gem.
Fame-ish is available on VOD now
by Caroline Madden
Caroline is the author of Springsteen as Soundtrack. Her favourite films include Dog Day Afternoon, Baby It’s You, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Lord of the Rings. She is the Editor in Chief of Video Librarian. She has an MA degree in Cinema Studies from SCAD. You can follow her on Twitter @crolinss.