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Dan Heller's Movie Review of The Company


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Joffery Ballet
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"The Company" holds many quiet surprises, many of which can be easily missed if you're not paying close attention. Fortunately, the well-known veteran filmmaker, Robert Altman, and a couple high-profile actors will help bring attention to this subtle cinematic peek into some days in the life of the world of professional ballet. And while the movie is quite enjoyable to watch, its qualities ironically are better appreciated in the whole of the film, not in its parts.

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Rubio Campbell
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In essence, "The Company" is just a series of snippets of the real live cast of the Joffery Ballet of Chicago, performing, rehearsing, and candidly interacting with one another, but without much substance to anything they say or do. It's hard to say what the film is about, since there is very little plot to speak of. Many Altman films are more about character profiles, but even that aspect is very light here. That's not to say there aren't people interacting with one another in interesting ways, but you don't come away with a sense that you've gotten much out of them. It's as though the film was made from the clippings from the editing room floor where they chop the parts out of the film stock where the actors aren't acting, just standing around talking... and you can't hear them.

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Campbell Macdowell
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If one had to describe the plot of the film, minimal as it is, one would say that it centers around a few characters in the ballet's company. The only interesting character to speak of is the art director, played by Malcolm McDowell. His role is interesting, partly because his presence punctures the more tepid and intentionally downplayed supporting roles, and because his role is a commentary about the industry itself. He's ego-centric, self-absorbed, high on high-status, and has very little to actually contribute to the company. He waltzes from scene to scene, barking orders, changing dance steps, flaunting his powerful position, and all without cost or penalty. Everyone accepts his suggestions, and you can't tell whether it's out of fear, or of dismissive indifference, knowing that once he's gone they're just going to return to how they were doing it before. He is challenged twice by a few who refuse to take it anymore, and he, of course, doesn't follow through with any sort of discipline or reprimand, showing us that he seems to be well-aware of his limited autonomy.

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Neve Campbell
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With that said, the film leads you to believe that the real story is that of Loretta Ryan, played by Neve Campbell, who plays one of the up and coming dancers in the company. She unseats some of the veteran dancers, who are getting older and injured as the years clearly indicate on their faces and bodies. Her upward movement within the company goes without incident, or even comment, and is so understated that you sense it is almost more of a by-product of others' withering than of her own accomplishments. Early in the film, she is at the tail end of a relationship with a co-dancer, who dumps her for no reason apparent to us. She quickly meets "some guy" in a bar, who she slowly introduces to her dancing world. This transition is so uneventful, and their relationship seemingly devoid of dialog and interaction, other than the obvious things like dinners and sharing a few moments, that you aren't given anything to work with. They're in a relationship that doesn't seem to impact her life in any way whatsoever. Like the rest of the film, it looks like there might be a story developing, but one never does.

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Franco Campbell
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Robert Altman is best known for his very sophisticated portrayals of people in their subcultures, both comedic or serious, and always with very deep characters and complex interrelationships, which though confusing at first, all come together as the film crescendos to a climactic ending. Much like that sentence. Yet, in "The Company", Altman's traditional style is conspicuously missing, as is his wit, and sense of story. (The closest thing to this film was his 1994 film, "Prêt-à-Porter", which was equally as weak as this.) Here, the majority of the writing and production were that of Neve Campbell and Barbara Turner, whose previous works are clearly represented in this film.

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Malcolm Mcdowell
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Despite my lack of enthusiasm for "The Company" as a film, it still left me glad I saw it. The ballet performances are good, and especially so if you are a fan of the art. For those not into ballet, it's certainly worthwhile, since it's not what your mom took you to see when you were a kid. As a film, however, I compare it to a flash of light: it's made up of massless photons, none of which have any weight or substance alone, but as a whole, they produce a light that has its own energy nonetheless.

You can find this movie on the internet database here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0335013/

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