The Company

For a while, it seemed like Neve Campbell was on her way to superstardom. She appeared in a number of successful movies before dropping out of sight. It seems she had larger things on her mind. First, before she was an actor, she was a dancer. She also decided to develop The Company, a labor of love for her. She created the story and produced the film, slowly shepherding it to its final form. It's a smart move for Campbell (Scream 3, Panic) because it shows that there is something behind the fact that she looks really attractive. She has the brains necessary to do things behind the camera, which will definitely help her longevity in Hollywood. It's also a good thing when director Robert Altman (Gosford Park, Dr. T and the Women) decides to helm your project.

The result is not quite an Altman film, but the voluminous cast is still there. Top-billed are Campbell, Malcolm McDowell (I Spy, Just Visiting) and James Franco (City by the Sea, Sonny). The bulk of the remainder of the cast is from the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. The Company is an ensemble film at heart, but to be a true ensemble it should have at least named the members of the ballet troupe by name instead of lumping them together. What it does do is forgo a discernible narrative in favor of showing how a ballet troupe works together as a unit. For Campbell, this meant another big (and mature) step to take; backing off on screen time. She plays Ry, one of the members of the troupe. Although she has the most screen time, it is less than what it would be in any other movie.

It's pretty fascinating watching The Company given there is no driving story, mainly because the film is not as boring as one would think. Campbell and screenwriter Barbara Turner (Beautiful View, Pollock) really go into the inner workings of the ballet troupe. They show excerpts of some very different performances over the course of a year, and show how the lives of its members weave in and out together. Ry (Campbell) gets her chance to shine when one of the main dancers sustains in injury. In what is probably The Company's most moving scene, rain falls upon an open stage and Campbell and her partner Domingo (Domingo Rubio, Save the Last Dance) continue to perform despite the potential danger of a wet stage. Later, she begins a romance with Josh (Franco), a chef. The relationship is difficult, because each person is so committed to what he or she is doing, making it hard to find time to spend together.

McDowell is Alberto Antonelli is the hard driving head of the company, always striving for excellence and pushing the dancers to their limits, yet still maintaining a fatherly appearance. The rest of the characters tend to fade into anonymity. Yes, there is the older woman, the flamboyant choreographer, the good dancer with long hair, and the young and spoiled phenom, but none of them really stick out in hindsight. It is because the film focuses on the group as a whole, overlooking some of the individuals that this happens. A little more focus would not have ruined the ensemble aspect of the film, and probably would have enhanced it by giving a greater sense of the cohesion of different personalities. The Company really comes alive during its dance numbers. Although the camera tends to cut a little too quickly (a characteristically un-Altman like thing to do), it is still able to capture the grace and beauty of the Joffrey (+ Campbell). The sheer difference in style between the various routines is impressive, and they all manage to take one's breath away, except for the last number, which feels like a weird Cirque du Soleil imitation.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some nudity, and sexual content.

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