Featuring the dancers of a fictional Chicago troupe, “The Company”, is billed as “a completely new kind of film”. Loosely following the life of a gifted but conflicted company member (Neve Campbell) on the verge of becoming a principle dancer and following the dedication, pain and lack of private life that comes with the position, the film follows her as she copes with the troupes pompous yet dedicated artistic director (Malcolm McDowell) and grabs what private time she can with her master chef boyfriend (James Franco).
I'm not a ballet fan. Right, now that's out I can honestly say that I enjoyed this film, I just don't quite know why. No, that's unfair. This is a Robert Altman movie and as such shows some of his style as we follow multiple characters and scenes simultaneously. However, in what is a break from tradition, the plot is only loosely holding together the scenes, which are also interspersed with sequences from the ballets the troupes are performing. Indeed the extras hold an interview with the screenwriter who comments that the movie “wrote itself” as she spent time with a real ballet troupe. This is the principle achievement and flaw of the film.
The ballet sequences are simple stunning. Gracefully executed and filmed with genuine care (the “White Widow” and “Blue Snake” sequences being prime demonstration material for those wishing to avoid explosions and carnage). The problems start when the ballet sequences are not on screen. As I mentioned, the story is fractured and is held together with only the loosest of plots; dancer working with a troupe, under a pompous artistic director, wanting to make principle dancer and taking refuge in her relationship with her non dancer boyfriend. That's it and it's a little too loose for me.
Throughout the film Neve Campbell is stunning in her dance sequences, if you didn't know beforehand that she was a dancer before hitting the big time as an actress you will know it after seeing this film, the dancing she executes in the movie is just too good to have been learned for a movie role. Malcolm McDowell is, well, Malcolm McDowell this time playing the role of the artistic director; a man genuinely in love with dance who does not suffer fools gladly.
This is not a Saturday night movie rental, think of it as a sort of fictional documentary, a “fictomentary”, showing the pain and reality of dancing and containing some glorious dance sequences and you're about there. If you love film you can't help but be swayed by the dance sequences and the care that Altman and Campbell have lavished on the production but don't expect a thrill filled plot as there simply isn't one here.
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