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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
The Turning Point
Directed by Herbert Ross
20th Century Fox Home Entertainent 11/77 DVD/VHS Feature Film
First Julia and now The Turning Point sensitive and ideaslitic film-goers at last have something to celebrate! Two movies about women who are complicated human beings rather than cardboard figures, inviduals who express their emotions in a genuine and moving way. Julia revealed the depth of a female friendship and probed the kind of reciprocal commitment that enabled Jane Fonda as Jillian Hellman to risk her own life for her friend. The Turning Point explores the breadth of another friendship. Scripter Arthur Laurents examines the strains of the love-hate relationship between two women who met while studying and dancing ballet.
Deedee (Shirly MacLaine), who now lives in Kansas, chose to marry and raise a family. Emma (Anne Bancroct) kept on in dance and became a prima ballerina. They meet again after many years apart when the dance company comes to Kansas on tour. Peering into each other's lives, they both wonder about the wisdom of their choirces made so long ago.
Deedee is trouble by jealousy a longing for the acclaim she would have received if Emma had not cleverly persuaded her to marry Wayne (Tom Skerritt), another dancer. And Emma, surrounded by her scrapbooks, old shoes, and memories, secretly rues the fact that her career is almost over and she has no one who really loves her. Deedee's daughter Emily (Leslie Browne) has become a fine ballerina and is the joy of her parents. She is asked to dance in New York with Emma's company. Although Deedee goes with Emily to the city, she soon finds herself displaced. No longer a dancer, she plays second fiddle to Emma who dotes on her daughter.
In the climactic scene of the film, Deedee confronts her friend with her jealousy and resentment. They argue in a bar and move outside where they physically battle only to finally fall into each other's arms exhausted and cleansed. Emma admits to Deedee that she did counsel her to get married so she could get the prized role which would lead to success.
Anne Bancroft's performance as Emma is of Academy Award proportions. She captures the inner anxiety of a charming and graceful star who is painfully aware of her body's swift decline and her spirit's slow fall into sadness. Shirly MacLaine's Deedee is an affecting depiction of a woman in isolation, nagged by regrets and depleted by self-devaluation. Herbert Ross (The Sunshine Boys, Funny Girl, The Seven Per-Cent Solution) has drawn out splendid performances from these stars. The supporting cast is excellent: Tom Skerritt as Deedee's tender and understanding husband, James Mitchell as a choreographer who cares about old friends, and Martha Scott as the shrewd and frequently gauche manager of the ballet company.
Ross not only excels in the direction of the cast, he also manages to make the world of ballet come to life on the screen in a way that has never been done before. Part of that comes naturally since he was once a choreographer for the American Ballet Theatre. This superb company of dancers play a major role in the film. We watch them in grueling exercises, repeated rehearsals, and then in actual performances. Leslie Browne and Mikhail Baryshnikov, who in the context of the film are lovers for a while, treat us to some stunning dance numbers. There is no dance movement in which grace and power are so perfectly conveyed as in the leap. And Baryshnikov is the master of this movement. Cinematographer Robert Surtees captures these leaps and all other graceful, fluid, and breath taking moments of ballet.
The Turning Point, then, is doubly rich a well-acted and engaging portrait of friendship regained and a luminous and illuminating glimpse into the world of ballet. After experiencing this superb movie, only a champagne cocktail and a good friend will do!
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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