Friday, March 25, 2011

Review-- Center Stage

Alrighty! Another ballet movie for me to review! This one is Center Stage. It was released in 2000 with mostly unknown actors, but some make recognize the ballet director and ballet teacher. Let's get cracking!

Story's about students who have been accepted into a ballet company's workshop. Though they passed, it is more like an extended audition since three boys and three girls will be chosen to dance for the company. With so many good dancers, competition is going very tough.
This movie is the ultimate 90s cliché. Granted, this movie was just coming out of the 90s when it was released. It still has those tacky moments where they have an entire scene dedicated to a pillow fight, but still try to be all serious by having someone be bulimic. You know what I mean? Still, it doesn't mean I hated it. It kept me interested--it just not going to win awards for an original screenplay.

The characters are also cliché. And almost all the characters look the same--minus the brunette and the tall, black girl (thank god for them! Or else I wouldn't be able to tell anyone apart). A lot of the students tend to blend blandly into the background. Only a few stand out. One is the tall, black girl (a bit of a rebel). The second is the uptight snobbish girl (the brunette). And then there's the underdog character (one of the blondes). I would give names but their names hardly matter in this type of movie.
The purpose of these characters is not really to amuse us, but to create archetypes that many dancers could at least somewhat identify with. This makes the movie more personal, and thus, a more entertaining movie. Here is where they did really well. Since most of the archetypes get featured at some point, there's plenty of opportunities for those who identify with the character to feel their story.
If she looks familiar, it's because she played Doc Oct's wife in Spiderman 2
The actors and actresses are all great dancers, and I really mean that. They are phenomenal. Their acting's not bad either. It did get a bit awkward at times (I was very aware of a script and it made the fourth wall break a bit), but I much rather have a talented dancer in a dance movie than a bunch of stunt doubles and lame cuts to hide the actors' inability to dance.

Also, get used to the main girl making the same face the entire movie. Maybe this is where Natalie Portman got her inspiration for Black Swan? Hahaha

<---- Seriously, she does it a lot XD

There's also other characters. Like the boy dancers. These guys play a crucial part since they play either the gay best friend clichés or the romantic interests. Also, the ballet director, choreographer, a med-school student, and an overbearing mother. They all did pretty good work so I can't complain. The boy dancers were really, really good.

The sets are mainly in studios, dormrooms, cafeterias, and on-the-town locations. They were actually pretty nice, but studios can get pretty bland. Still, it wasn't too bad at all.
The costumes were your average clothing. For performances, they were fine, but the last ballet performance I thought looked a bit weird. Something just didn't add up with the hair, shoes, and mini-skirt.

The music was mostly pop music. Some of the ballet music was classical, especially for performances of Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. The rest of the movie's background were teen favorites of the era, and the final ballet sequence had pop and even some disco thrown in. Personally, I didn't like the disco music at all. I thought they could find something better, but hey, that's just me.

Again, not much to say about camera. They did a really nice job with the edits and offering a variety of shots for the long dance sequences. I thought it did a nice job of capturing the essence of ballet. So kudos to them!

Ballet Presence:
Ballet! Ballet everywhere! This movie is about ballet straight to the very core. Not only do you see them dancing during class and rehearsal, you also get some full-length dance sequences. 
 They did a great job of capturing the struggles during practice and emotional breakdowns during rehearsals. Whoever wrote the script also knew a bit about ballet because the main girl's main problem is her turn-out, which puts her behind the other girls in the workshop.
The final ballet sequences that feature the students are interesting. One is a traditional ballet. The other has been modernized, most likely to be a bit different and to appeal to a wider audience. It's not bad, but I loved the dancers so it made it really amazing.
Earlier in the movie, you can also see some Swan Lake and some other traditional ballets. There was actually so much dance being featured in this movie, that I had to stop taking screencaps since I had so many. This is definitely a dance movie with great dancers. Proving that if you want to make a movie about ballet, you can easily find someone who can actually dance to play the part.

Overall Enjoyment:
Despite its clichés (eating disorder, underdog, overbearing mother, focus on perfection, trying to discover oneself, etc.), the movie wasn't bad. I mean, let's face it. We're not watching this movie for the story or the characters. We just pick one of the students we identify the most with and watch the ballet. Considering this, the movie does a really nice job knowing its audience. I think it knows its cheese and fully embraces these qualities. This movie won't appeal to most audiences, I'm guessing, since it's geared toward teens and 20-somethings mostly, but it's still not a bad movie to watch if you're outside that target age-range. Do I recommend this movie? Yes. Because the dancing is awesome!

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