CENTER STAGE (2000)
Starring Amanda Schull, Zoë Saldana, Susan Mary Pratt, Peter Gallagher, Donna Murphy, Ethan Steiffel, Debra Monk, Sascha Radetsky and Shakiem Evans.
Screenplay by Carol Heikkinen.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 116 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Center Stage has no right to be as good as it is. It is an almost programmed “chick film” that seems like it was written by committee (or maybe just by watching old movies.) All of the standard clichés of the genre are present and accounted for.
You have the beautiful but naïve country girl (Amanda Schull) being beaten down by the big city before she attains her wildest dreams. Then there’s the talented but tough city girl (Zoë Saldana) with a bad attitude. You also have the gorgeous and gifted star pupil who everyone thinks will succeed (Susan May Pratt), but is secretly a forlorn bulimic who is being pushed way too hard by her overbearing stage mother (Debra Monk, who also plays Andy Sipowicz’ ex-wife Katie on NYPD Blue.)
There is the strong and silent type (Sascha Radetsky) who will always be there for our country bumpkin heroine. There is the flamboyantly gay student (Shakiem Evans) who’s always there to dish with the girls about dancing, boys and fashion. You have the old school dancing teacher (Peter Gallagher) who keeps butting heads with the hot young rock & roll upstart (Ethan Steifel). And you can’t make one of these movies without the demanding former-ballerina-turned-teacher (Donna Murphy) who ends up having a heart of gold. And, of course, the film ends with the triumphant dance where our heroes impress the staid Metropolitan Opera audience with their hot, streetwise, pop music recital.
In other words, nothing in Center Stage will surprise anyone in even the tiniest way. And somehow it just doesn’t matter. I mention all of these unknown actors’ names because they do a fine job of fleshing out what are essentially assembly-line characters. They invest the story with gravity and a depth of feeling it may not even deserve. Truth is, Center Stage is a significantly better film than Flashdance, the supposed high water mark for the “I wanna be a dancer” films. (Okay, granted Flashdance wasn’t all that good despite all its hype and popularity.) Center Stage moved me much more than I would have ever believed, and I for one can’t wait to see what this talented cast does next. (7/00)
Copyright ©2001 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 12, 2000.