This review may contain spoilers.
Being an actress or an actor is hard, no matter what people think. They work at all hours of night and day, they change their body, hairstyle, outfits, just to give the audience a character that they will come to love or hate. They give us amazing stories and legendary roles that influence us and the society we live in. Being a childhood actor is even harder. It has good and bad aspects but always has its price. The newest HBO documentary, Showbiz Kids, shines a fresh light on childhood fame, the difficulties they face, and the post #MeToo world.
Written and directed by Alex Winter (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Showbiz Kids has two paths – one of them is producers interviewing artists who started as child actors. Amongst them are Evan Rachel Wood, Henry Thomas, Milla Jovovich, Cameron Boyce, Mara Wilson, and more. The documentary opens with Diana Serra Cary, who was once known as “Baby Peggy.” The actors share their experiences of being childhood stars. Jovovich hated being on the set. Shirley Temple thought that everybody worked as her. Wood called it “a very fulfilling but lonely experience.” Their feelings differ, yet similarities occur when it comes to some aspects (such as extreme pressure).
The other path follows two children, Marc Slater and Demi Singleton, who desire to become actors. Their families support and help them in trying to achieve their dream. Marc ends up in Hollywood with his mom, Melanie, auditioning for season pilot. The producers watch Marc’s preparations for the meeting. Demi, older of the two, talks about her experiences on The School of Rock, and the summer camp she may go to – only if she doesn’t book another gig.
Different Statements, Similar Truths
Showbiz Kids is an interesting documentary that showcases the difficulties of being a child star. The audience hears from the variety of actors where age differs. We see Diana Serra Cary talking about growing up on sets, then Cameron Boyce sharing his feelings on fame. Ultimately, from different experiences come similar truths that are difficult not to see.
Many actors that were once child stars possess strong trust issues that don’t go away, even after growing up. Boyce expresses his feelings on that subject, where he didn’t know if someone wanted to be his friend for his personality or fame. Wil Wheaton, known from Stand by Me, has similar feelings. In the documentary, he mentions his cousins, who once tormented him, but after his big break, started to appreciate him.
Another aspect that is evident during listening to the interviews in Showbiz Kids is strained family dynamics. Family members, especially siblings, are often negatively affected by famous brother or sister. Childhood stars, then, often posses guilt over their success.
As they all grow up in the fans’ eyes, people start having a fake, manipulated by media image of who they are. While they become teenagers and try to figure the stuff out, their every move is followed. One of the biggest obstacles mentioned by Henry Thomas was growing up in the eyes of the audience. The filmmakers expected him to stay the same young kid from ET. The actor explained that some were unpleasantly surprised when they saw a teenage boy in the waiting room. That certainly plays a destructive role in kids’ psyche.
One of the biggest issues was also a child abuse on film sets. Evan Rachel Wood extensively talks about this aspect. After sharing her experiences of acting at a very young age, the actress explained the importance of the film Thirteen.
Child Actors After The “MeToo” Movement
The documentary clearly shows the difference between being a child star in the 80s, 90s, and now. Thanks to #MeToo movement and brave actors that spoke up (amongst them was Corey Feldman and Evan Rachel Wood), parents of rising stars can be more careful. And they are. The audience can see that in a way that Marc and Demi’s mothers approach the subject.
That, in turn, displays huge importance that the movement had and still has on our society. It also shows the sad reality where almost every child actor was abused, either mentally or physically. Some of them mention that the creators would trick parents, to take them away from the children.
After viewing the film, it’s clear that acting career at a young age is incredibly hard. Young stars experience everything deeper. Their fame influences their upbringing, and it’s important to give them a little bit of childhood as well. Showbiz Kids is a “cautionary” movie. The actors present a raw, true picture of their childhood (or rather the lack of) where they’ve worked hard their whole life. It’s evident from the interviews that they’ve been repeatedly exploited by those who promised to protect them. However, thanks to them and the documentary like this one, the upcoming young actors have a chance to do it more safely. Demi and Marc, alongside their moms and families, can be more cautious about approaching the subject.
HBO offers its audience an unusual insight into the brutal world of child acting. The film possesses an interesting opening sequence thanks to the film editing by Weston Cadwell, and, in the end, is dedicated to the memory of Cameron Boyce and Diana Serra Cary who passed away not too long ago.
Showbiz Kids is an interesting watch for everybody, especially film critics and the parents who dream of their children’s fame. The documentary’s moral is simple – be careful, trust cautiously, and save some time to be a kid, because you’ll miss it one day.
What did you think of the documentary? What do you think of child acting in the post-“Me Too” movement?
Showbiz Kids is available to stream on HBO platforms starting July 14th, 2020.
Watch Showbiz Kids
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