From its opening avant-garde ballet performed to atonal electronic music, it's clear Robert Altman won't make The Company (2003) just another dance movie. With star and trained ballerina Neve Campbell taking her unobtrusive place among the Chicago Joffrey Ballet corps, Altman deftly reveals how much dance is the primary force in dancers' lives by relegating the genre's usual melodramatics over cutthroat competition and the rising star's choice between her career and her love life very much to the sidelines. With his over-the-top theatrics, Malcolm McDowell's flamboyant ballet maestro "Mr. A" is the only performer allowed to chew the scenery, but even his behind-the-scenes machinations and merciless judgments about dancers' roles and abilities underscore the power of the terpsichorean calling. Altman's lyrical camerawork in the ballet sequences showcases Campbell and the rest of the company to radiant effect, filling in the drama left out of the documentary-style off-stage scenes. Though some viewers might be frustrated by the attenuated backstories and deliberate avoidance of interpersonal histrionics (while Campbell and James Franco are charming together, their romance barely registers), those who simply want to see a skillful and graceful merger of dance and film will find much to enjoy in The Company.
by Lucia Bozzola review