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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - Edition No 912 
Reckoning

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CENTRE STAGE

SYNOPSIS:
After a childhood of hard work, Jody (Amanda Schull) has finally achieved her dream: acceptance to the prestigious American Ballet Academy. But it is never going to be smooth sailing for Jody. She has 'bad feet'. Meanwhile, Eva (Zoe Saldana) has great feet and talent to burn. For her though, a serious 'attitude problem' may prevent her from making it through the school. Add to the mix Maureen (Susan May Pratt), the overachiever without a heart, ballet superstar Cooper (Ethan Stiefel) and his rival for Jody's affection, Charlie (Sascha Radetsky) and the stage is really set for the struggle that is the world of top level dance.

"If you judge a film purely on its dramatic merits, then be forewarned: even en pointe, Centre Stage struggles to raise itself above the level of Beverly Hills 90210 in tights. But thatís not the point (excuse the pun). The principle aspiration here is to portray contemporary ballet with gusto, grace and glamour. In executing this aim as perfectly as a Nureyev grande jete, Centre Stage provides us with the most dynamic and creatively filmed dance sequences seen for some time on the silver screen. It also boasts some terrific dance class representations, with the convincing tensions and exertions of the budding Baryshnikovs making up for the contrived instructor-student dialogue. There is a particularly memorable early image of dancers nursing their naked feet. Bruised, battered and blistered, their most important assets ainít a pretty site. Mostly, the dramatic scenes are simply an excuse to segue to the next body bending sequence. But a plethora of pirouettes in the plot is hardly to be expected; particularly when characterisation amounts to little more than a bunch of sharp stepping stereotypes. Which is probably just as well when one considers that most of the young cast . . . well, as the old chestnut goes: as actors they sure make damn fine dancers. This film could easily be written off as a flimsy reprise of Fame, but if 115 minutes of very sexy dancing punctuated by some very silly dialogue takes your fancy, donít miss it."
Brad Green

"Sometimes, before the first frame even appears on the screen, there is a signal that what you're about to see has the potential to be a real stinker. Centre Stage provided one such occasion. The first sentence under 'About the Production' in the publicity notes reads: 'Several years ago, Columbia Pictures Chairman Amy Pascal became intent on making a movie about dance.' Immediately the alarm bells ring, this is the vision of a suit, not a creative. And unfortunately the intuition proves all too accurate in this production. Of course it does. How can a writer or director who wants to work in Hollywood say no to a studio head? And at what point can the creatives make it their own? Carol Heikkinen, who has explored the 'young people finding their way' genre in her only two film credits, Empire Records and The Thing Called Love, was given the task of writing the screenplay. She has delivered a clichť from beginning to end. Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George, The Crucible) was appointed as director because of his work in musical theatre. This background has served him well in the sumptuous production numbers, but not much else. Hytner had little to work with. In addition to the appalling script, he faced the age old problem of where to find dancers who can act? And because it's about dancers, they had to be dancers first and foremost. Established actors Peter Gallagher (American Beauty) and two time Tony award winner Donna Murphy do a credible job. And the dancing of American Ballet Theatre star Ethan Stiefel is spectacular. Centre Stage is a must for dance lovers but offers little else for the rest of us."
Lee Gough



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

CENTRE STAGE (M)
(US)

CAST: Amanda Schull, ZoŽ Saldana, Susan May Pratt, Peter Gallagher, Donna Murphy, Debra Monk

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Hytner

PRODUCER: Laurence Mark

SCRIPT: Carol Heikkinen

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Geoffrey Simpson

EDITOR: Tariq Anwar

MUSIC: George Fenton

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Gropman

RUNNING TIME: 115 min

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 14, 2000 (all states except Perth Ė September 21)

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar Home Video

VIDEO RELEASE: March 14, 2001







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