The stories presented in "The Company" are frustratingly
abbreviated. We see Josh (James Franco) first spot Ry (Neve Campbell)
in the restaurant where he works, though she does not see him. We later see
them in a bar - he covertly watches her while she plays pool. We don't see
them meet - instead, the film flashes forward to them waking up together.
The next scene with him has him entering her apartment with his own key.
Clearly, time has passed and we have only seen flashes of their lives
together, without the opportunity to watch the characters develop.
Other subplots are similarly condensed. We see a new
dancer (John Gluckman) fumbling about trying to find his place in the
Company - pleading to share a locker with another dancer, struggling to find an open spot on the bar, begging to sleep on a fellow dancer's
apartment floor. A quick glimpse into the impoverished life of a new dancer, but no
clear development, nor a clear resolution for that matter. In another
storyline, we see the interactions between a gorgeous young dancer (David Gombert) and his over-controlling boyfriend (Yasen Peyankov,
who is listed as his mentor in the credits, but the relationship seems so
much more), but we fail to receive a complete picture of their story.
But in a way, it seems that these abbreviated stories are
in fact intentional, meant more like sporadic snapshots into their lives
rather than a complete film reel. And in that sense, the film mirrors the
art it features. Dance, and ballet in particular, invokes emotions through
color, movement, and sound. The stories told in a ballet are hinted at,
suggested by the dancers' actions. Similarly, the film hints at the
characters' stories through quick images, but without presenting a complete
story. The audience is given a few points in time, and is left to connect
the dots and complete the story themselves - just as we would at a ballet.
And the film presents just enough hints to be able to fill
in those blanks, or at least some of them. We see how hard it is for Ry and
Josh to stay together. They are separated continuously throughout the movie
- when he has to work on New Year's Eve, when he's later separated from her
across a crowded bar, when he's already asleep when she returns home, and
ultimately, when he's trapped on the opposite side of the stage from her at
the film's conclusion. But though the theme of being separated recurs
throughout, in the end it seems to be about being able to surmount those
obstacles to stay together. Though Josh is already asleep when Ry returns
home on New Year's Eve, she is able to snuggle against him on the couch and
fall asleep in his arms. Though they are separated across the stage, he is
able to sneak across during the curtain call to be with her.
Ultimately, the main "character" of the film is the ballet
company itself. A large portion of the film covers the company's dance
rehearsals and performances with minimal plot development involved, and it's
fitting that the film concludes with a curtain call for the ballet troop.
Another reviewer wisely noted that in the end, the film is Robert Altman's
love poem to the Joffrey Ballet (evidenced by four different renditions of
"My Funny Valentine" that play throughout the film).
It's hard to know where this film may end up on my Cosmo
ballot, if anywhere. It's clearly a drama, but may be outclassed by many
other dramatic films this year like "Mystic River" and "Lost in
Translation." It technically qualifies for the Comedy/Musical category (if
the play "Contact"
can win the Tony for Best Musical, then "The Company" counts as a musical).
But will it resonate enough to compete against "Love Actually," "Pirates of
the Caribbean," or "Finding Nemo"? Malcolm McDowell delivers a powerful
performance, but will it be enough to make the top five Best Supporting
Actors for me? The cinematography is intriguing, particularly the filming of
the live performances - many shots are taken from within the audience, even
to the point of showing the backs of their heads. But can its cinematography
compete against the big epics that rolled out this year? Perhaps Sexiest Ensemble. James Franco in
particular...I'd happily bear his children (though we'd have to promptly put
them up for adoption, since I'm not fit to be a father). And the Joffrey
Ballet troop...my, what fine bodies they have, and featured so prominently
in the many, many shirtless scenes in this film.
My grade: B -
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