As the camera probes into a crowded room of ballerinas spinning and dipping, a young blond is immediately isolated from the bunch. The male choreographer's assistant notes that the girl has poor form. The choreographer retorts, "Who cares, look at her." And with that the blonde, blue-eyed Jodie is given a spot in the American Ballet Academy, the Julliard of dancing.
The visual entrance to the ABA is a series of close-ups on cut, bruised, and bandaged feet; this is as nuanced as the film ever gets. The pain and anguish of living out your dreams, of striving to beat out the odds and become what you always dreamed of becoming (here it is a dancer), is isolated in the trite experiences of three roommates at this prestigious ballet school. Jodie is the one with "bad feet" but ample heart; Eva is the talented one with a bad attitude; and Maureen is the perfect one without the passion.
Along the way misguided affairs (Jodie falls for the cocky, beloved star of the Company), eating disorders and injuries crop up, pushing the plot along. As do unfortunate lines like, 'I'm not dancing for them anymore; I'm dancing for me.' The only solace from such schlock is the fact that the film makes it clear from the start that it exists simply to showcase the dancing itself. As such, it's no shock when the choreography upstages the screenwriting.
A Broadway musical in disguise, Center Stage parades around as a drama by limiting the intricate dance numbers to rehearsals and performances. No one breaks out dancing mid-speech -- they simply wait until they're in the studio (which is more often than not).
The dancing itself is typified by the finale of the film, which takes form in the modern "ballet" the students perform to the music of Michael Jackson. The student performance, which of course appears before a packed house in Lincoln Center, is intended to provide a hip twist on the drab classicism of ballet (who knew one could pirouette to the King of Pop as easily as to Tchaikovski).
Ultimately the story line here is as stupid as the final "rock" ballet. The characters are one-dimensional, as are their "struggles." In fact, the territory is so familiar that it's almost excusable. With that said it's still hard to watch Center Stage and be able to get the familiar opening music to Fame out of your head; it's also hard to remember why you're not simply watching that film instead.
They're gonna live forever.
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th May 2000
Box Office Worldwide: $17.2M
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 46
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Producer: Laurence Mark
Screenwriter: Carol Heikkinen