What You Need To Know:
Despite their vacuity, these characters keep the melodrama cooking with the ups and downs of their love lives and their simplistic inner conflicts about the strict physical and mental demands of ballet. They’re all incredibly spoiled and sulk whenever their instructors attempt to enforce the mildest discipline. Even so, their pouting and witless romantic interludes make for entertaining soap opera. Also, several rousing dance scenes punctuate the plot. Unintentionally bordering on camp, CENTER STAGE is candy for the eye and brain. Viewers should exercise extreme caution, however, due to much foul language and sexual situations
(PaPa, B, Ho, LLL, SS, NN, A, D) Hedonistic worldview with mild positive reference to God & minor homosexual character; 27 profanities & 28 obscenities; no violence; strongly implied fornication, several scenes of unmarried couples together in bed, sensual dance scene with female in underwear, sensual dance scene with male groping female, & minor homosexual character makes suggestive comments about same-sex acquaintances; no nudity; underage alcohol use; and, smoking.
CENTER STAGE is a guilty pleasure. Cliché-ridden and utterly predictable, this movie about young adults vying for a position with the American Ballet Company is “Dawson’s Creek” in toe shoes. (One of its stars has even made two appearances on “Creek,” a Clearasil opera on the WB network.) Still, dumb as it is, this movie is fun to watch. Maybe that’s because, as with TV’s DAWSON’S CREEK, BEVERLY HILLS 90210 and others of their ilk, the stars of this movie are just so good-looking.
CENTER STAGE features a pack of mostly no-name dancers who have never appeared in a movie before. Their inexperience shows. Many great movies have been made using first-time actors with viable day jobs, often by today’s deft directors of independent films. This kind of risk, however, only pays off when the director finds unknowns with real, natural talent, unobscured by celebrity. This director, Nicholas Hytner, apparently forgot about the talent part of the unknown-actor package. The cast’s glaring inexperience is further exacerbated by leaden, formulaic dialogue straight from a bad TV show. Even so, to their credit, these folks can dance.
Furthermore, every single character in this movie is a painfully obvious stereotype. The movie’s three main characters are female ballerinas — Eva, Jody and Maureen — sharing a dorm room at the American Ballet Company’s internship program for aspiring dancers. At the end of the internship period, only three women — what a coincidence! — will be chosen for positions with the company. Each woman plays a two-dimensional role straight out of central casting: dark-skinned Eva is the (extremely exaggerated) rebel who secretly longs for approval; brunette, bulimic Maureen is the intense perfectionist with a stage mother and a penchant for purging; and blond Jody is the voluptuous innocent seduced by the Company’s star dancer, Sergei. Of course, there are male characters as well, but they spend most of their time orbiting around the females, alternately bedding or pining after them.
Despite their vacuity, these characters keep the melodrama cooking with the ups and downs of their love lives and their simplistic inner conflicts about the strict physical and mental demands of ballet. They’re all incredibly spoiled and sulk whenever their instructors attempt to enforce the mildest discipline. With their self-indulgent attitudes, it’s hard to believe that any of them has ever set foot in a dance studio before. However, their pouting and witless romantic interludes make for great soap opera. Also, several rousing dance scenes do manage to punctuate the plot. In fact, the dancing in CENTER STAGE, even though it too degenerates into silliness toward the end, saves this movie from pure banality, though viewers should exercise extreme caution due to some foul language and sexual situations. (You know the silliness threshold is approaching, though, when Sergei creates a dance about his wife’s adulterous affair, with himself cast as the virtuous hero — without irony!)
Unintentionally bordering on camp, CENTER STAGE is candy for the eye and brain.