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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Be Somebody is a thoughtful look at teenage artists, one a successful pop singer with throngs of fans and no life to himself, and the other a high school street artist hoping for a scholarship to a New York art school. The burdens of fame are addressed, as are the responsibilities that talent and intelligence bestow on kids. A high schooler appears to be drunk at a party. Two teens paint art on school walls, which is technically vandalism, but the work has positive messages.
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What's the story?
Mega-pop star Jordan Jaye (Matthew Espinosa, a Viner and YouTuber) has much in common with Justin Bieber. He struggles with rabid fans accosting him on the street. His love life is fodder for tabloid media. BE SOMEBODY is about the downside of fame and what you lose when you gain everything you thought you wanted. Jordan misses moments alone, unscheduled time to contemplate, the assurance that the people he hangs out with are not with him just because he's famous. One night while on tour near Los Angeles, his mom-manager leaves him alone on their tour bus and, with baseball cap, hoodie, and skateboard, he jumps out to clear his head. He's quickly chased by fans and begs Emily (Sarah Jeffrey, from TV's Shades of Blues) to let him into her pizza delivery car and whisk him to safety. His interest is piqued when she doesn't fawn on him. The bus leaves for Las Vegas without Jordan and since staying at a hotel will attract fans and the media, Jordan begs Emily to put him up at her suburban home, where cop dad and working mom may find the arrangement questionable. He spends the night on the floor in her bedroom, which is filled with her artwork, and this leads to discussions of the meaning of art and its social importance. Jordan becomes a fan and, with his assistance, they spend the next night spray-painting her clever and life-affirming images on her school's walls. No one seems to care at school the next day. Their relationship deepens. While he does go to Vegas to return to his tour, he is drawn back to Emily and a future friendship -- or maybe more -- seems possible.
Is it any good?
Matthew Espinosa and Sarah Jeffrey believably inhabit their characters and imbue them with intelligence and vulnerability, rare for any actor, never mind such young ones. Be Somebody writer Lamar Damon, an active TV producer, and director Joshua Caldwell earnestly tackle the difficulties of two challenging subjects -- growing up and handling success- - without resorting much to cliché. But more than that, they try to give honest voice to the worries and concerns of young artists who are still looking for ways to express creativity without compromising principles. Emily gave up a good friend because the friend wanted to be popular and changed herself to achieve that goal. Jordan is a great financial success but Emily's discipline and integrity make him reconsider what kind of singer he wants to be. He worries that if he expresses his true self, "maybe no one will like it." For all those reasons, the movie is a cut above the usual teen-directed fare. It would have been great if the movie's focus were sharpened a bit earlier as opening scenes lag a bit. Jordan's mother-manager echoes many stock characters seen in other films, and the director spends a straight 50 seconds showing us a tour bus travel down a night highway. Why? Dunno. But, for all the right reasons, this movie echoes the 1953 classic movie Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn as a princess who escapes her keepers and duties for a few days of normal life, and that's pretty good.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the downside of fame. Most kids think it would be fun to be rich and famous. How does Be Somebody try to present the reality of a life under scrutiny of fans and media?
Do you think some famous people miss the ability they had before fame to go about life unrecognized? How might the constant pressure of being recognized become a burden?
Some kids choose not to be popular because they believe other things in life are more important. Is it difficult to stand apart from what the rest of the crowd is doing? Why?
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