44. Fame (1980) [Rated R]
summary from imdb.com:
A chronicle of the lives of several teenagers who attend a New York high school for students gifted in the performing arts.
directed by: Alan Parker
starring: Irene Cara, Anne Meara, Debbie Allen, Richard Belzer, Meg Tilly
Maureen Teefy: Why? Oh, why? God will punish you, Yuri Yajeyopeyonoff. What crime is this unborn child guilty of that it should not drink of the milk of paradise?
Paul McCrane: You warned me, Elena. Not one ruble have I lost, not one.
Tresa Hughes: I don’t know what’s happening to you. Tell me what’s happening to you. Where did my Doris go?
Maureen Teefy: Something wonderful is happening to me, Mama. I’m growing up.
Tresa: You’re becoming somebody else.
Maureen: I’m becoming an actress.
Tresa: I want you to be the Doris that I know. That I love. That helps me with the groceries. Makes me birthday cards out of Cheerio packets, huh? Not Dominique who stays out all night.
Maureen: Oh, Mama.
Tresa: And gets pregnant. Or has an abortion, God forbid. Now, Dominique, she’d be smart. But my Doris she’s dumb enough to get knocked up–
Maureen: Mama, it was just one night!
Tresa: That’s all it takes.
Antonia Franceschi: You see, I’ve been offered this place with the San Francisco Ballet. I haven’t told anyone yet, but I’m gonna take it. I don’t care what they think. I’m a good dancer. Better than good. Maybe even the best in the school. That’s not conceit. It’s just simple honesty. If I stay in New York, everybody will think I bought my way into ABT. I’m not starving myself to death for Balanchine’s City Ballet. Not that I mind doing the corps de ballet b#######. I’d sooner do it out of town. I’ll pay my dues on the West Coast. Come back to New York as a star. You see I’ve always had this crazy dream of dancing all the classical roles before I’m 21. I want Giselles and Coppélias coming out of my feet. And Sleeping Beauties and the Swan. I want bravos in Stuttgart and Leningrad and Paris. Maybe even a ballet created especially for me. You see? There’s no room for a baby.
Judith L’Heureux: Will this be Master Charge or American Express, honey?
from the excited-about-abortion commenter Rikibeth at Susie Bright’s Journal:
“Fame” also had a character getting an abortion without horrific consequences, IIRC. Yes, she was upset, but she was upset about the unplanned pregnancy and how it was affecting her dreams of dancing every classical lead role before she was twenty, not over the fate of the fetus. The abortion was presented as the logical way of dealing with it!
The following is my contribution — done StinkyLulu-style — to Blog for Choice Day – 2008, a virtual event which asks us all to contemplate the necessity of using our vote to support the future of reproductive freedom. […]
Antonia Franceschi plays Hilary Van Doren, a rich white girl who lands (at the beginning of “Sophomore Year”) in the midst of the multicultural urban swirl of the New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts.
Franceschi’s Hilary is a gifted dancer, who brandishes her racial and economic privilege with weary cruelty. She hates her stepmother, reveres her absent mother, and seems intent on being a “bad girl” ostensibly to get the attention of her distracted father.
The film tells us little of Hilary’s backstory (though it seems safe to assume that she’s been kicked out of any number of “better” schools than Performing Arts).
Franceschi’s performance operates in slow reveal. When we first see her, gossiping in ballet class, she seems like just another dancing princess. But within a quick set of dialog-while-dancing scenes, Franceschi begins to show that her Hilary is neither a delicate ballerina nor a talentless rich b####.
Rather, she’s a bada## on pointe.
Franceschi’s Hilary seduces the film’s “wicked” Leroy and, without condescension, Franceschi clues us in that Hilary’s erotic rebellion against her Park Avenue privilege is complicated. As Franceschi’s Hilary chatters about herself while escorting Leroy through the fanciest building he’s ever been in, Franceschi begins to show that behind that bravado of a white girl who can banter with the black girls (“yes, but who wants diabetes”) stands a young woman not sure whether she’s loved.
And the slow reveal of Franceschi’s performance is echoed in the character’s longest, simplest and most memorable scene.
Director Alan Parker frames Franceschi’s Hilary in a long shot, showing her sitting in a chair at the base of an opulent staircase. As the character rattles about her difficult decision to accept a position in a West Coast ballet company, rationalizing and justifying and explaining the sacrifice, his camera slowly climbs in toward her in a single shot. Franceschi’s Hilary continues to talk about her dreams as a dancer and, as she details her fantasies about the legendary roles “just coming out of her feet,” emotions well to the surface of Franceschi’s face, its adolescent angles highlighting Hilary’s vulnerability and isolation.
And in one of the great “gotchas” of American melodrama (I’ve seen the scene literally hundreds of times and it invariably squeezes my heart every time), the camera’s first look away from Franceschi’s Hilary is to a woman in a starched nurse’s cap, followed by Hilary’s reveal: “There’s just no room for a baby.” To which the nurse, not unkindly, asks whether she’ll be paying with MasterCharge or AmericanExpress. Only then does the film settle into an acknowledgment that Hilary’s pregnant, probably by Leroy, and is now deciding to terminate the pregnancy. And in a flash, all that comes before resonates in an entirely different depth. (A critique of this scene — that the film sets Hilary up as a sexually empowered girl/woman only to punish her for precisely that; that white women with resources always have access to medical procedures that poorer, browner women don’t — might be right, but there’s something else in the character that, for me, is just as crucial. The film allowed me, as a Fame-obsessed teenaged sissyboy in the early 80s, to empathize with the dilemma of choice. My reaction to the character then is much like my reaction now. I remember not liking the character at all, hating her a little and fearing her a lot, until this final scene when I, for the first time, empathized with the difficulty of her decision to terminate her pregnancy. And when was the last time a mainstream US film allowed you to empathize with the challenge of choice in such a complex, humane way?)
Franceschi’s raw emotional openness — the uncertainty of her certainty that she’s making the right choice for herself and her future — is staggeringly apt for an actress in her screen debut. Franceschi’s Hilary offers an astonishingly rare presentation of the emotional complexity of choice and, because I can honestly say that her character presented my first challenge to think seriously about reproductive freedom, I’m grateful that I started that journey following the terms instigated by Antonia Franceschi’s performance. This brief scene is frank, simple, brutal, honest, emotional, and humane — in short, precisely what qualities we must prioritize when having conversations about reproductive freedom. Voting to support reproductive freedom is my “voting issue”, my only litmus test to determine whether or not I can or will support a candidate. As a gay man with no plans to parent, that may seem odd. But, for me, it’s a no-brainer. Our choice to, or not to, procreate should not determine our value in a free society. Which is why, after this cinematic year of the Smushmortion, I am so grateful that I came to cinematic consciousness when I did, when a women’s right to choose was depicted not a lake of fire but as one option along the path toward her best future.
Take a look at Antonia Franceschi’s work in Fame again. It’s the work of a fine young actress who’s gone on to become a formidable dancer and performance artist in the UK. And consider using your vote this year to support, fortify and extend reproductive freedom.