THE COMPANY – French Stream

Director : Robert Altman
Cast : Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, James Franco, The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago
Resource: French Stream
Based on an idea from one timer dancer Neve Campbell and script by Pollock’s Barbara Turner, Altman’s latest offering takes a peek behind the scenes at the world of dance while still paying homage to the performance.
Actors mingle with real members of The Joffrey Ballet to provide you with a visual treat of spellbinding dance sequences. Campbell, a trained dancer herself, holds her own while performing with the company but as a supposed upcoming talent and center piece of the ensemble, the standard of her moves fails to entirely convince.

Altman clearly fell in love with Joffrey because a large chunk of the film is taken up with their repertoire. That said, you don’t have to be a dance fan to appreciate the on stage displays and a scene involving an al fresco performance during a thunder storm is one of the film’s high points. But you can’t help feeling that Altman is not up to his usual standard when depicting the off stage dynamics. There is the contrast between on stage glamour and the real life aches, pains, injuries and battling to make ends meet but we fail to get a real sense of the company as a whole. Campbell offers a glimpse at the determination and sacrifice of the professional dancer but her role leaves you more than a little uninspired. And instead of engaging with the players you end up somewhat disinterested.
Malcolm McDowell does a wonderful over the top turn as the company’s artistic director, a role allegedly based on the real man himself. His interaction with the company and foibles provide some of the film’s well-needed comic turns and you end up wishing he was in every scene. While James Franco as Campbell’s love interest brings to mind River Phoenix, a comparison that can only bode well for his future.
With top-notch dance sequences but dialogue and observation that fails to hit the mark, this is one for fans of dance rather than Altman.
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