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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Matt Dinerstein)

photo caption:
CUDDLE UP A LITTLE CLOSER: Ry (Neve Campbell, right) shares an intimate interlude on the couch with Josh (James Franco). end caption.


Not Much Plot in Altman Tribute to Joffrey Ballet

Kam Williams

Not many people know that before she considered a career in acting, Neve Campbell had her sights set on one in dance. She entered the National Ballet School of Canada at the age of nine and was well on her way to becoming an accomplished ballerina when recurring foot, leg, and joint injuries forced her to look for another line of work while still in her teens. Although she had to abandon that dream, she always hoped to be successful enough at her second choice to make a movie about ballet one day.

Neve first became well known in 1994 when she landed a breakout role as an ensemble cast member on Fox-TV's Party of Five. From there, she made the jump into feature films as Sidney Prescott of Scream 1, 2 and 3 fame. That low budget high body count trilogy of mock slasher films elevated Campbell to cult status as the reigning teen horror queen.

Although she's made over twenty movies altogether, including Wild Things, Drowning Mona and Three to Tango, it seems that her other work has been overshadowed by the Scream performances. That perception might change a bit after The Company, a drama about the Joffrey Ballet. The film represents a return to her roots for Ms. Campbell who finally got to make that ballet picture she once promised herself.

She not only stars in this practically plotless tale, but she co-wrote and co-produced it, too. Though basically a super-realistic look at the rigorous day-to-day life of dancers, the movie tosses in a tale of a young woman, Loretta "Ry" Ryan (Campbell) struggling with the competing demands of ballet and her private life.

The Company was directed by legendary movie maverick Robert Altman who has been nominated for an Academy Award a half-dozen times, most recently for Gosford Park. The 78 year-old iconoclast has never won an Oscar, despite his having made such classics as M.A.S.H. and Nashville. Unfortunately, this year's entry is too weak an offering to warrant even a sympathy "body of work" vote, primarily because it is unfocused, sloppy, and the opposite of compelling.

The movie eschews any concern with the cinematic foreground in favor of wide-angled pans across an expanded back cast encouraged to indulge in Altman's trademark overlapping dialogue. Thus, they mostly improvise lines as they go about the business of being ballet artists. The unobtrusive camera captures a decidedly unglamorous adventure, highlighting how the pressures of practice and preparation lead to the exhilarating sense of accomplishment associated with a triumphant concert performance.

Campbell does all of her own dancing, and the rest of the corps of dancers onscreen are actual Joffrey Ballet members. So, any actual ballet we see is first-rate. The only other thespian worthy of note, here, is Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) who injects a bit of colorful energy into the picture as Alberto Antonelli, the finger-snapping, perfectionist instructor impatiently trying to whip the company into shape.

This movie has virtually no storyline, so seek this out solely for the sake of enjoying every aspect of ballet and you won't feel cheated.

Good (2 stars). Rated PG-13 for brief profanity, female frontal nudity, and sexual content.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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