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Birds of Paradise Review: Uninspired Storytelling Bogs Down Great Choreography


When it involves ballet movies, there are a couple of good ones, starting from ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948) to ‘Billy Elliot’ and ‘Center Stage’ (each launched in 2000) and of course, ‘Black Swan’ (2010), which arguably gave Natalie Portman the position of her lifetime and even received her an Oscar for Best Actress. If my reminiscence serves me proper, the final time I watched a ballet movie was Luca Guadagnino’s wildly bloated and pretentious 2018 remake of Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria’.

Now, becoming a member of the ever-growing record of ballet movies is ‘Birds of Paradise’, which is at present accessible for streaming completely on Amazon Prime Video. Directed by Sarah Adina Smith of ‘Buster’s Mal Heart’ fame, the movie follows Kate Sanders (Diana Silvers) from Virginia who acquired a scholarship to affix the elite ballet academy in Paris, France. We be taught that Kate was once a basketball participant earlier than she began dancing for 5 years. And whereas she is nice in what she does again within the US, issues are radically totally different in Paris. Unlike her fellow dancers, the academy’s dance teacher Madame Brunelle (Jacqueline Bisset), finds Kate missing the mandatory grace and precision of a real ballet dancer. But Kate refuses to surrender and determines to show herself she has what it takes to develop into a ballet dancer.

Enter Marine (Kristine Froseth), the wealthy daughter of the American ambassador and as soon as a promising number-one ballet dancer within the academy, who just lately mourned the loss of life of her twin brother and dance accomplice, Ollie. She makes a comeback to the academy and determines to win the coveted prize for Ollie. The first time her character is launched, she will get off to a nasty begin with Kate. They don’t get alongside at first, and if that’s not sufficient, Kate finds out she has to share a room along with her.

As the movie progresses, the story particulars how Kate and Marine go from being rivals to changing into unlikely greatest mates and even ending up so far as making a pact “to win the prize together or not at all.” The prize in query seems to be a contract to affix the celebrated Opéra nationwide de Paris.

Based upon A.Ok. Small’s 2019 novel ‘Bright Burning Stars,’ Sarah Adina Smith has a great eye for visuals. Or, extra particularly, the seductive and, at occasions, surreal visible high quality of the movie is hanging. At one level, there’s a stylized fever-dream second the place Kate and Marine go to an underground membership referred to as Jungle and engaged in a psychedelic dance after swallowing worms of kinds.

Elsewhere, Smith captures the elegant circulation of the dancers’ ballet performances with some of her sleek digicam actions. Speaking of the ballet performances, the general choreography is top-notch, whereas Ellen Reid’s atmospheric rating enhances the temper of the movie. I additionally love the way in which Smith inserted chapter breaks between scenes, the place she made good use of the font spacing between the time left and the prize over a vibrant pink background.

While ‘Birds of Paradise’ triumphs on the technical fronts, the story is unfortunately a blended bag. Smith, who additionally tailored the screenplay, botches her potential to delve deeper into the connection between Kate and Marine. Diana Silvers and Kristine Froseth — each up-and-coming actresses recognized for his or her respective roles in 2019’s ‘Booksmart’ and Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess is a Loser’ (2018) — are frankly well-cast on this movie. They look nice collectively as two contrasting people from totally different backgrounds. And judging from the floor degree, every of them do a great job portraying their roles, notably Froseth’s sneaky flip as Marine. As for the supporting forged, Jacqueline Bisset impressed me probably the most along with her scientific position as Madame Brunelle.

The downside right here lies with all of the promising teases that Smith appears to be aiming for. I used to be half anticipating the movie goes full blast on the ‘Black Swan’-like storytelling route nevertheless it lacks the psychological perception of that Darren Aronofsky’s acclaimed drama. There are even a couple of hints that the movie ventures into the awful depiction of a cutthroat world of aggressive ballet dancing, one thing extra according to Starz’s 2015 miniseries ‘Flesh and Bone’. But then once more, the movie largely misses that crucial edge too. If solely Smith was keen to take a couple of steps additional and never making all the things slightly too restrained or standard, the outcome might need been an interesting piece of work.

By the time ‘Birds of Paradise’ reaches the inevitable conclusion the place the ballet dancers are competing for the prize, Smith has already run out of steam and has misplaced an opportunity to finish the movie on a compelling notice.

Rating: 2.5/5

Read More: Where Was Birds of Paradise Filmed?

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