Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. Germany/USA, 2003. , , CP Medien AG, Killer Films, John Wells Productions, , , , Story by Neve Campbell, Barbara Turner, Screenplay by Barbara Turner. Cinematography by Andrew Dunn. Produced by Robert Altman, Joshua Astrachan, Neve Campbell, Pamela Koffler, David Levy, David Ley, Christine Vachon. Music by Van Dyke Parks. Production Design by Gary Baugh. Costume Design by Susan Kaufmann. Film Editing by Geraldine Peroni. Toronto International Film Festival 2003.
Robert Altman once again takes fictional characters into a factual situation in this latest film centering around the world of ballet, using Chicago’s famous Joffrey Studio as its backdrop. Neve Campbell (also co-producer) stars as an aspiring dancer and Malcolm McDowell as the group’s slightly batty leader in a ragged scenario co-written by Campbell and Barbara Turner, but what really count here are the scenes featuring the very skilled dancers (including Campbell herself, who really shines on stage). No amount of energy is wasted in showcasing the magnificent talents of all involved, and every time the dancers take to the stage the screen comes vividly to life with energy and strength, aided by Geraldine Peroni’s skillful editing and an excellent soundtrack. Unfortunately, the rest of it is deliriously boring, with flat characters who aren’t in the least bit sympathetic or memorable (or in the case of Marilyn Dodds Frank as Campbell’s mother, simply annoying). Altman cuts away from the behind-the-scenes rehearsal moments and into the professional performances so quickly that no important knowledge about the life of these hard-working artists is ever properly gleaned, at least nothing you didn’t already see in Fame twenty years ago. James Franco co-stars as a restaurant cook with whom Campbell finds romance, but they barely exchange ten words between them before the film is over. It was probably a wise choice for the filmmakers to avoid soap opera and therefore not remake Centre Stage, but the content that is so sorely missing does little to compensate for this. Dance fanatics will enjoy it, everyone else should steer clear and instead rent Matthew Diamond’s brilliant Dancemaker and/or Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes.