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Ballet 422 (2014)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
An unenlightening mess, 18 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Based on the description, I thought I would love this documentary, since I love ballet. Yet by the end, I didn't even like it.

I will clarify that the flaws in this are not those of the film's participants, who seemed like hard-working and dedicated people, but of the director. The director seems to have wandered into the creation of a ballet halfway through and turned on a camera, with no vision of the point that should be made or the tale that should be told.

I give it 3 out of 10 for the few scenes of dancing, which were very good. Watching these young bodies perform difficult movements with a seemingly effortless ease was amazing, but that is kind of the point of ballet--to make the difficult appear easy. All of the dancers were very skilled in that aspect, and the focus of the film, the young dancer and choreographer Justin Peck, seemed like a charming and talented young man. So that was the good; now on to the bad.

The film is described as "From first rehearsal to world premiere, Ballet 422 takes us backstage at New York City Ballet as emerging choreographer Justin Peck crafts a new work." But that's a lie--the first time we see the dancers working on the ballet they have already learned the steps, so it's not the first rehearsal. As I said before, we join the process halfway through.

Peck's process or inspiration is not mentioned or described at all--I had to google to find out that the ballet was inspired by California beaches. So that explains the costumes--sort of bathing suits. Watching the costume-design portions of the film was actually pretty interesting--or it WOULD have been if we had any idea what they were going for. Instead we just see them talking about fabric and design without any idea of what mood or tone they are trying to evoke.

Here is what would have made a great film. Start with Peck learning he will be choreographing a new ballet for the company. For a lower-ranking member of the company, this is a great honor and I imagine he would have been excited about it. Let Peck tell us what his vision is and what he wants to accomplish. Answer these questions:

How did you choose the music? What characteristics are you looking for in your dancers? What is the process of choosing dancers? What will the name of the ballet be? Does the ballet have a story or is it more of a mood piece? If it has a story, what is the story? What are the names of the dancers you have chosen? What parts will they play?

After those questions are answered, the film could show us how Peck teaches the steps to the dancers. Did he have the whole thing planned ahead, or were changes made during the rehearsal process?

Then, edit out of the film all of the parts showing Peck walking around, or sitting and listening, or looking at walls. I think that would have cut the length by about 30 minutes, so fill in with more dancing.

Those changes might have made this into a good film.

I should add that people unfamiliar with ballet may be confused by a few things--it would have been nice if the director had bothered to explain some of the things that were happening.

When I walk out of a documentary, I want to feel that I have learned something. At the end of this, I felt like I had just watched some stuff. It was mostly tedious, with a few interesting bits here and there.

I hope Peck and the lovely dancers in this mess will have successful careers, and I hope the director will take some lessons in how to tell an effective story.

10 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
It's Michael J. Fox and that's great, but. . ., 27 September 2013

I've heard it said that only two people can get money for a show in Hollywood without doing a pilot--Michael J. Fox and Bill Cosby, and certainly we all understand why that is. Michael J. Fox is a wonderful and funny actor who can "accidentally" throw a dinner roll at a man's crotch and joke "Parkinson's!" and it's funny.

However, the rest of the cast doesn't quite live up to the star. The premise is that Michael Henry, beloved New York news anchor, left his job because of Parkinson's, but is now returning to work.

His family is a deadbeat son, smart teen daughter, and young son who is so far no more than a punchline occasionally. His sister is a selfish freeloader, and his wife is there, too. She's just there. All the family characters are stereotypes and not too interesting. I don't think this is the fault of the actors--they play stereotypes just fine.

Only two shows have aired so far, but I feel disappointed. If it wasn't Michael speaking, my attention wandered. The other characters just can't seem to hold their own against Fox.

The two plots so far have been Michael's return to television, which was somewhat fun, and flirting with the sexy upstairs neighbor (Michael's real-life wife, Tracey Pollan) which was so trite I was truly surprised it made it past the drawing board.

The most interesting characters so far are Michael's TV friend, Harris, played by Wendell Pierce, and the "lesbian" friend of his daughter, who was on screen for less than 5 minutes.

His news channel "family" is a bit more interesting, and perhaps if the show focused on that aspect of his life, it might be worthwhile.

I'll give it a few more tries, but am not too hopeful--so far it's thumbs down. I really wanted to like this, but it needs a big rewrite and perhaps some recasting.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
How to enjoy this film, 21 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

No major spoilers.

I agree with most reviewers; the chemistry between the leads was not good, and that lowers the film from a higher review. They were not helped by the rather limping dialog during their scenes together.

However, what I discovered after watching is that this film is NOT about a love affair between a young woman and an older man--this film is about how a man who has been selfish his whole life learns to change.

As a Richard Gere vehicle, this film is excellent. His journey throughout the film is believable and well-acted. I commend his performance--there are many small moments throughout the film when I found myself struck by how wonderful he was, and how subtly he could portray an emotion or a change in his character. For Gere's performance alone, I recommend this film. And I should mention that I am not usually a Gere fan. For this film however, I am.

In addition, the supporting cast for this film is stellar. Their lines are amazing, their portrayals brilliant, and I remember their names while I cannot right now think of the name of Ryder's character....

If you'd like to enjoy this film, think of it not as a love story, but as the journey of man who, at 48, finds he still has much to learn. And finds people who will help to teach him.

28 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
One of my favorites, 14 July 2004

What makes this movie so very charming is the incredible ensemble acting. Watch Vincent D'Onofrio in an early role, as well as Julia Roberts. Annabeth Gish is completely enchanting as Kat, and William R. Moses very believable as the flirting husband. Most wonderful, however, is Lili Taylor as JoJo. Sometimes known as the queen of B movies (I think that was Ebert's title), here she shows the range and talent that indicate she deserves superstardom.

Unlike the misleading re-release that features Julia's face prominently, this is NOT a star vehicle, but depends on the interaction of all the players. A wonderful coming-of-age film that has been one of my favorites for 15 years.