Monday, February 8, 2010

A Chorus Line

Year 2, Day 38 - 2/7/10 - Movie #403

BEFORE: Today was the airing of an annual sports classic, a time when young athletes take the field, and Americans gather around their televisions to watch the brutal action. Of course, I'm talking about The Puppy Bowl VI on Animal Planet. What, there was a football game, too? Oh yeah...well, I guess we're more into the counter-programming. If you missed the Puppy Bowl, you missed a great competition - and a really fantastic Kitty Half-time show.

Dipping into my wife's VHS collection again tonight - she said I'll probably hate this movie, but what can I do? It's on the list by virtue of being community property...

THE PLOT: Hopefuls try out before a demanding director for a part in a new musical.

AFTER: Yeah, it's definitely not my cup of tea, but it's not a horrible film. Pitched as "the ultimate backstage musical", it features a group of dancers auditioning, and for the final cut, the director asks them to reveal their inner personalities and back-stories, which we see in various individual musical numbers.

What's interesting to me is the short-shrift given to certain characters - some of them have extensive back-stories, then other dancers just mention being gay, or Asian, or old (30), and that seems to be enough of a characterization. The film is really a product of the 1970's, when it was a Broadway show, and apparently there was no desire to explore further into the deeper meanings of these archetypes. By contrast, the story of a girl who's had plastic surgery is so shocking that she gets a whole song about it - but she just had a boob job! Compare her to some of the plotlines on "Nip/Tuck" and you'll realize how tame her story actually is...

This film may not tie in to the Super Bowl, but it definitely ties in with American Idol's Hollywood Week. There are so many similarities - hundreds of people take the stage, they each have just a few minutes to perform, and then they're lined up like cattle and asked to step forward or back - "A Chorus Line" originated that fake-out where the people step forward, thinking they've passed the audition, then it turns out that the BACK line is accepted, and the front line's going home. Psych-out!

What I don't understand is - why did the director need to know so much about their personal stories and backgrounds, if they were vying for spots in a musical where their roles are in the chorus, and virtually indistinct? Why does he need to know so many details if they're just going to be part of an ensemble?

It's also strange that the film doesn't feature many big-name actors - I know, primarily they're dancers, and not actors - but other than Michael Douglas, the only other name actor is Audrey Landers, and that's not a good sign. I kept thinking I might have recognized a character actor or two among the dancers, but looking them up on the IMDB produced nothing of any recognition.

RATING: 5 out of 10 stage names

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