Monday, February 14, 2011

Review-- Ballet Shoes

Alright! Finally, I manage to get my act together to complete this movie review for.... Ballet Shoes! Now, this took especially long since I found out there are a couple versions of this. Not only is this a book, but there are also two film adaptations for it. One is recent (one of the stars being Emma Watson) and the other looks like it's from the 70s. I was only planning on reviewing and taking caps from the one starring Emma, but I figured it would be fun to compare the two films side by side.

Since I haven't read the book, I decided to nix looking at how well each film captured the essence of the book. Both of these movies are quite similar, even the fact that they were both made for television makes them alike. So let's begin! Which one will I like more? We'll see!

Basic Premise:
Three orphaned girls named Pauline, Petrova, and Posy are taken in by an old paleontologist. The paleontologist departs, leaving their guardian, Sylvia, in charge. In order to pay rent on their house, they take in several boarders. One of these boarders is a dancer, who recommends Sylvia to enter the girls into a dance academy. While Pauline enjoys the academy since she wants to be an actress and Posy likes it since she wants to be a dancer, Petrova is miserable since she wants to fly planes. Unfortunately, taking in boarders is not enough to pay the rent, and their caretaker, the paleontologist, has been missing for quite some time now. The girls struggle to make ends meet, taking on acting jobs to help Sylvia keep the house.

Each movie did a nice job with the pacing and making us understand the different characters and their unique talents. It's a little hard to say much about the story, considering that I've never read the book it's based on, but for the most part, it's a cute story for little girls to watch. They do a nice job with morals by teaching things such as "don't turn into a bossy prima donna" and then the more serious "perfection isn't possible" and "if you enjoy something, it's always worth fighting for it." 

My major gripe with this movie is: "Why is this called 'Ballet Shoes'?" The title makes it sound like this is a ballet movie, but it's more about the girls' acting than dancing. Sure, they are in a dance academy, but Petrova and Pauline make money by taking parts; Posy is rarely there. There's also this big lead-in with Posy being abandoned with only a pair of ballet shoes. You would think she is the main character, but if anyone is the main character, it's Pauline. Pauline gets several big breaks while Posy doesn't get hers until the very end. It's bizarre and possibly would make more sense if I read the book.

Main Characters:
Okay, let's not beat around the bush, the new version has much better acting. Not only that, but Posy is a pretty good dancer. And if that's not her dancing, then by god they have found one heck of a great body double. Emma Watson is a much better actress for Pauline. Her recitation of Puck is better than the girl from the 70s version. Also, her crying is much more believable, not laughable. I know they are only children, but acting like you're sick doesn't equal sniffing in between every line. More the fault of the director than the girls in the 70s version.

Also with the 70s version, Pauline seemed to have more ballet experience than Posy. Not that Posy did a bad job, but the character is supposed to be showing signs up excellence and, well, born with ballet shoes in her mouth. 

Now I pretty much hate all the girls. Wow, that's mean of me, but each one grates on my nerves in their own super special way. This is why I don't have children yet, peeps, because I just can't handle these girls' selfish, bratty behavior. Sometimes, they are downright cruel, especially to their rival named Winifred. Poor girl, you end up rooting for her instead.

Supporting Characters:
 There's a pretty large supporting cast for this movie. All play a specific part in helping the girls achieve their dreams. I'll try and tackle some of the most important ones.
Sylvia Brown-- She is the girls' guardian. In the 70s version, she is portrayed as a nervous woman, constantly explaining herself and doubting her actions. In the newer version, she is portrayed as a more stressed out woman. Both are fine, but the nervous portrayal got annoying after awhile, though I do suppose that may be how they wanted the character portrayed.
Madame-- She is the Russian teacher of the ballet school and in charge. She plays a much bigger part in the 70s version, but in that one, the acting seems a bit over the top. In the newer version, she reminds me a lot of some family friends I have from Eastern Europe, so I felt the newer portrayal was much better. Sadly, she doesn't nearly get the amount of screen time that the earlier one gets. Still, I enjoy both characters.
Winifred-- Winifred, their rival. Poor, poor Winifred. In the 70s version, she has parents out of work and gets her role sabotaged by Pauline who lies about the location of the audition. In the later version, she is the best in the company but can't get a part because of her "below average" looks, she is bossed around by Pauline when she becomes Pauline's understudy, she just gets the short end of the stick. I guess you're supposed to think she had it coming, but I really don't see it at all. All I see is a poor girl with lots of talent who just doesn't quite make it. The girl in the newer version does a phenomenal job. I was very impressed, but the girl from the 70s version... not so much. I'll need a more convincing cry than what she did.
The Boarders-- These people help the girls study in some way. The professors (or professor, in the 70s version), the garage owner, and the dance teacher all help the girls in some way. I liked all of them, to be honest. I loved them all because they were very kind, all of them. Acting was very good from all of them, especially the later version. I loved the later version because their characters were much more fleshed out and were given back stories.

Since these were made for television, I was not expecting much, especially since this story takes place in the 30s, but they both did a pretty decent job. The 70s version looks a tad dated, and I swear they aren't wearing bras at points, but both versions got the hairstyles right. The newer version even goes a step beyond, doing research to find how girls got the wave in their hair. The 70s version seems to have a simpler, studio set, where the newer one goes on location.

 Both films utilized ballet music as part of their score. It was a nice little touch. However, the 70s version did a bit more than a touch. In fact, I would describe the music as a little kid who keeps poking you in the side over, and over, and over, and over. This movie wouldn't stop spamming Tchaikovsky's "Panorama" from the ballet, Sleeping Beauty. I'm not kidding when I say this; it had to have played over eight times.

Ballet Presence:
Ballet is definitely present in both versions. I do think that the 70s version balanced the acting with the dancing better than the newer version, but there was still a disbalance in both where acting seemed to get the uppercut.

Go ahead and click on these pictures for a larger shot. I tried to get a shot of every major scene involving ballet. I had a hard time telling if the girls in the 70s version were en pointe at times. Sometimes, it looked like they were faking it, and other times they would definitely be en pointe. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Posy probably shouldn't have been en pointe at all. She didn't look steady.

However, in the 70s version, all of the girls were seen in the dance studio. In the modern version, it was only Posy who received formal dance lessons.

 Overall Enjoyment:
Both of these films were very good, but I have to say I like the modern version better. The sets are better, the costumes are better,the acting is better, the ballet is better (though less). I just enjoyed it more, and since the story is almost identical, may as well go for the one that developed the characters more and did an overall better job.

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