Jeff Nimoy’s Fame-ish is a loving and self-effacing spoof of the convention celebrity lifestyle. In some ways it feels more at home in 2009 than 2020, after 10 years of increasingly prominent geek culture have led to necessary shakeups of what fandoms consider acceptable behavior by fans and creatives alike. There is little doubt that (fictional) Nimoy’s shenanigans navigating flirtatious fans and engaging in pretty standard movie sex-comedy hijinks will ruffle feathers and bring to mind conversations about the balance of relative power in convention settings. On its merits as a movie, though, Fame-ish is a good-hearted story about a bad-hearted man trying to learn a lesson, made with real passion and low-budget charm.
Fame-ish reminds me of Jay and Silent Bob: Reboot, another (higher profile) middle-aged look at what it means to be a “big name” for one weekend a month, sometimes thanks to a job you barely remember. Kevin Smith, who made Reboot, is a family man whose experience raising a GenZ daughter informed his wistful GenX celebration of how the world has changed for the better even as it has left his style of comedy behind. That movie ends its story at a big convention, too, where costumed youths celebrate their mutual affection for product and socialize with their people. To Smith’s credit, Reboot is just more about the kids than the adults, and the cultural side-eye punches older. Fame-ish tries a similar approach to modest but limited success.
Nimoy’s approach to Fame-ish is a more traditional “fictionalized self” comedic approach: This Jeff is a washed-up jerk whose notable work dubbing anime voices on Trigun and Digimon are years in the past. He can’t even get a job from his brother-in-law. When a Wisconsin convention offers to pay him $3,000, he jumps at the free weekend away from Los Angeles and his depressing life. Upon arrival, he’s treated like a celebrity; he later remarks, “At this convention I’m famous and sexy. Back in L.A., I’m George Costanza.”
The reference to Costanza, a ’90s icon whose cultural relevancy to young people has long passed, is as clear a statement as any as to the era from which Fame-ish‘s sexual politics are derived. Nimoy pretty quickly becomes embroiled in a love tangle with fellow anime voice artists Nikki Boyer and Brian Donovan (also fictionalized versions of themselves) and an 18-year-old fan, Lana (Margo Graff), who wants to sleep with Nimoy. Actually, Nikki falls for Nimoy, too. He doesn’t sleep with Lana, so Lana tries to drive a wedge between him and Nikki because she feels spurned. It’s a whole thing. Wacky drama ensues. Big speeches, apologies and jokes about male impotency abound. Ultimately Nimoy gets an ego boost and, after a meaningful conversation with a fan, comes to realize that conventions aren’t just a place to selfishly indulge in booze, painkillers and willing female fans.
Of course, it’s the journey to that realization that might pain many viewers. Older audiences may be more willing to stomach what feels like a fairly outdated but nonetheless earnest model of a male character learning his lesson but more or less getting everything he wants while behaving badly. It’s probably more inoffensive the older you are, or at least the more tolerant you are of that kind of story. That there is no real reckoning with the implications of Nimoy’s non-sexual debauchery relationship with Lana speaks to real-world problems with predatory behavior by stars on weekend ego trips. But that’s also not where Nimoy is trying to go with his story, which is self-focused in its nature. If you are emotionally invested in conventions as a space for safe expression, well … don’t bother.
Still, there is an undeniable fact that conventions double as excuses to party and let off steam, and each character in Fame-ish is consenting and aptly ridiculous for the purposes of comedy. So, as a small-budget romp set at a convention squarely focused on the main character’s ego and the lessons he learns about his responsibility to a group of people who love him more than he loves himself, it’s an enjoyable piece of independent filmmaking. If you’re looking for a movie that feels made by those fans and seeking to tackle real-world issues of fan-community representation and power dynamics? You might want to take a hard pass.