Starsuckers review

Celebrity worship, culture of narcissism, stardom invasion of politics – all important topics worthy of a documentary of their own, yet unfortunately merely glossed over when crammed together as they are in Chris Atkins’ new doc.


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Starsuckers (2009)

“Do practice your story”, instructs a teacher to her enthralled class in Chris Atkins’ Starsuckers, a documentary about the cult of celebrity that holds us all in its grip. The class in question is at the New York Reality TV School, where students are paying to learn how to preen their life-story in the hope that they too will be blessed with fame and fortune.

With the now customary formula of animation aimed at infants, a whirlwind of talking heads and stunts à la Moore and Spurlock, Atkins interrogates the media machine that he holds culpable for our celebrity infatuation. At times, it’s a reductive and patronising diatribe. Said villain – referred to throughout as The Media – narrates the film and appears on screen as a magician giving a lesson to You, the eponymous sucker, about his tricks to cultivate your desire for fame from early childhood and keep you under his control.

Atkins aptly exposes how celeb-obsessed society has become, with scenes of pushy parents and wannabe child stars, footage of Max Clifford admitting the lengths he would go to to disguise one of his clients’ wandering hands, and interviewees for a fake celebrity-P.A. role admitting that they would do anything for their beloved stars, from turning a blind eye to underage sex to taking a bullet.

But in demonstrating how ravenous for all things A- to Z-list we have become, the why isn’t probed so deeply. There’s lots of tut-tutting at corrupt showbiz-crazed newspapers who are willing to bypass any press regulations and to print the most ludicrous, unfounded gossip. Anthropologists and journalists, addiction specialists and psychiatrists all muse on a manner of subjects – from the increased levels of narcissism evident today (apparently 80 percent of people now consider themselves important) to experiments with monkeys and theories of evolution – but not in any real depth. The public are either sneered at or cast as victims, and throughout the psyche of the celeb-addict remains elusive. Atkins also takes aim at the invasion of stardom into politics - a topic that needs its own 100 minutes.

Like the stargazing public, Starsuckers aims too high. At best Atkins holds up a mirror to celebrity worship, but he merely provides an overview of this complex subject, rather than the dissection desperately needed.

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