Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review-- The Company

The second ballet movie I'm reviewing is called The Company, made in 2003. This has some big names in it, most noticeably James Franco (he played Harry in Spiderman) and Malcolm McDowell. I didn't recognize the other name, Neve Campbell, but she's in it, too.

Now, this is definitely a new breed of movie. It's almost a documentary style. There's no solid story, just an overarching theme. In many ways, the movie itself is like a representation of the modern ballets it performs. The ballets have a vague story, but what is more important is the talent and the emotion that their dancing evokes in the audience.
If I did have to give this movie a plot, it is about the ballet company as a whole. We specifically follow a budding dance star as she goes to practice, interacts with others, and performs. The ballet company is in Chicago and performs mostly modern ballets.

The story also had its funny moments. I love when a dancer starts talking back to the ballet director (master? I'm not quite sure what he preferred to be called) and the Christmas skits were also really funny. The funny bits added a nice change of pace in juxtaposition to the more serious ballet rehearsals and company concerns.

I liked this movie. I liked hearing the ballet rehearsals since they reminded me of the old days I danced in high school. I read that the screenwriter didn't know anything about ballet, but after spending time with the Chicago ballet, wrote the script. I have to say, she did a pretty good job, and I felt it made a really good representation of the stresses and fun times a ballet company goes through.

This is mostly for older audiences, since there's nudity and sex references. Older kids in their teens would be fine, but if you're looking for a great family film, this is definitely not a good choice since it probably won't hold their attention. 

I won't separate main characters from supporting characters since everyone is equally important in this story, but I will look at the ballerina the movie follows most. She's the budding star of the company, and she goes by her last name, Ryan, or Ry for short. Neve Campbell plays her character and she definitely looks like she knows what she's doing. She dances her own parts, which I love. (I hate "clever" editing to hide an actress' inability to perform the moves because you can always tell they aren't really performing.) But she performed her own part, and quite well, too. She trained for four months to get back into shape and she looks great.
The other dancer characters also dance their own part. Those who had line did a great job, too. It felt natural, like I was looking into a window that showed me their lives. However, since everyone looks somewhat similar in their uniforms, I had a really hard time telling them apart. When one dancer snaps her Achilles tendon and then I think she's dancing in the next scene, it makes it really confusing. I had to rewind to notice that they were two different people.
The ballet director is played by Malcolm McDowell. He's the son of an Italian immigrant who takes charge of this Chicago ballet company. He's a perfectionist, arrogant businessman and can be a jerk at times, but all the dancers respect him and hope for him to acknowledge their hard work, which he does. I really liked this actor as the ballet director. He was able to balance the strict side with the slightly bitchy side.
James Franco plays Ry's boyfriend. He's a successful chef at a restaurant. I actually read he trained at a Chicago bistro in order to take this part, so kudos to him. He didn't have a big part, just smile and look cute I guess.

I can't say much about costumes since they wore your everyday outfits. The ballet costumes were either minimal or bizarre, so I can't comment too much on these. The sets, however, are great. I loved seeing Chicago as the back drop. In fact, one of the outdoor performances takes place at a Lollapalooza stage. Lady Gaga actually performed on the very same stage they danced on. The movie did a great job of capturing some of the major Chicago landmarks, such as the el-train, which drives past Ry's apartment several times in the movie.
The ballet studio is small, but you get the idea. It is the stage that is more interesting. I loved how the camera shot from the performers perspectives at times so we could catch a glimpse of their world.
Was there music? I don't know. There was music during the ballet performances, but I wasn't to blown away by anything I heard. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad.

The camera was odd at times. Most of the time it was great! But sometimes we would get an odd zoom, like the ones I do on my digital camera. There were definitely odd moments, but for the most part, it was fine. The scenes were set up real nice, like the picture of the stage above.

Ballet Presence:
Ballet is everywhere. Can't avoid it, so if you don't like it, stay away. Why are you at this blog anyway? The film features mostly modern ballets. I don't recognize any personally, but I don't know much about modern ballet, so these could have been created for the movie.
Those they did have were really interesting and entertaining. It was nice to get a different type of ballet than just the classical stuff. The movie also took time out to show us a couple minutes of the ballet. I love when movies do this instead of cutting to the end of the ballet because I like to see the characters' hard work.
I loved how the actress could dance her own part. I know I'm beating a dead horse here with that comment, but it's true. It makes a world of a difference.
 Aren't they pretty? There's also this really cool one where they are suspended from the ceiling and dance. It reminds me a bit of some circus acts.

Overall Enjoyment:
Overall, I loved this movie. I liked the documentary feel, I liked ballets, I liked the characters. I know many people won't like this movie because there's not a strong story, but it still makes a great ballet movie. It probably could have shown the darker side of ballet a bit more, but other than that, it was a great movie that completely immersed me into its own world. I recommend giving it a try and if you don't like it, at least enjoy the dancing!

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