A review of “The Company” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language, nudity, and sexual content

Run Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

 

 

Robert Altman’s valentine to the art of ballet is a pleasing fever dream; a hypnotic docudrama that peers behind the scenes of the world’s most graceful and grueling sport.

Neve Campbell is in the spotlight as Ry, a dedicated ballerina who serenely endures the daily rigors of training, competition, and bloody feet.  Under the tutelage of autocratic company director Alberto Antonelli (Malcolm McDowell), Ry is offered her big shot when a company principal is injured and Antonelli chooses Ry as her stand-in.

Aside from a narrative thread involving a burgeoning love interest between Ry and brooding sous-chef Josh (James Franco), The Company focuses its sights on penetrating the relentless grind of a ballet company. The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago is front and center, drenched in the sweat-soaked nature of the dream and the ultimate enchantment of the performance.

Campbell is no stranger to the world of dance.  As co-writer and producer of the project, she drew on her own experiences as a dancer with the National Ballet of Canada.  Remarkably, Campbell had been off-pointe for ten years before assuming her dancing duties.  The dedication and arduous training necessary to enable an ex-dancer to look professional alongside the Joffrey members is a staggering achievement.

Performances are understated with one exception. McDowell is a powerful force; a whirling dervish of eccentricities who cracks the whip on his “babies” and eats up the opportunity to go straight over the top.

Altman utilizes his standard tricks of the trade – ambient sound, filtered light – to lend the film an air of wistful voyeurism.  Dance numbers are beautifully realized, in particular a sizzling pas de deux performed on an outdoor stage during a striking lightning storm.  The Company’s story, what little there is, dissolves into a seductive vortex of movement and color. In the hands of Altman it is eminently watchable.