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Center Stage

August 29, 2014

Center Stage (2000)
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Actors: Amanda Schull, Susan May Pratt, Zoë Saldana

Image result for center stage film

Synopsis: Young hopefuls join the American Ballet Academy in New York, and spend a semester gearing up for the all important dance workshop which will dictate who graduates to become members of the company.

Review: This unintentionally hilarious variant on the time-old high school/college/’Fame’ staple features some of the most rote storytelling and characterisation going, and if it wasn’t for the admittedly visceral and watchable dance sequences it would be an irredeemable movie turkey.

Within ten minutes of the film’s opening, you’ve pretty much gathered the assortment of characters and how their likely trajectory will play out: there’s the young starry ingenue with confidence issues; there’s the sassy, sarcastic best friend who needs to take her profession seriously; there’s the highly strung perfectionist with the pushy parent; the bad boy, lothario star dancer; the ‘boy next door’ hunk who will ultimately prove the object of affection for the ingenue; and the token gay, unthreatening sidekick. In itself, those stock characterisations are all well and good, if only some of the politicking wasn’t so crass and unintentionally offensive. Shoehorning in a bulimia subplot for the perfectionist doesn’t work and stereotypes the condition, and Zoë Saldana’s Afro-Latina outsider is a complete cipher, not accorded the backstory or romantic arc of other characters, and her little epiphany at the end would have been that much more moving if the film had probed at why she had that terse exterior in the first place (a defence mechanism due to her class/race in such an elite institution?)

The film does attempt to add some depth to its bland concoction by the end (the vain star dancer may not get the girl, but he is unquestionably championed as an expert choreographer who spices up the ballet world), but it never really obscures just how blandly mainstream Center Stage’s aspirations are. (August 2014)

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