Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Chorus Line

Author(s): Al
Location: NY

“A Chorus Line”

Produced by Bill Condon, Paul Thomas Anderson, Marvin Hamlisch)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by Paul Thomas Anderson and Bill Condon
Cinematography by Dion Beebe (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Miami Vice)
Edited by Richard Pearson (Rent, United 93)
In Memory of Michael Bennett

Principal Cast:

Zach: Michael Keaton (A no-nonsense director with an unorthodox audition process.)
Cassie: Bebe Neuwirth (A very talented but aging dancer and Zach’s ex-girlfriend)
Larry: Tyler Hanes (Zach’s blunt assistant)
Richie: James T. Lane (A flamboyant and energetic African-American dancer)
Diana: Natalie Cortez (An assertive but kind Puerto Rican)
Al: Tony Yazbeck (Kristine’s understanding husband)
Val: Jessica Lee Goldyn (A dancer who only began to get work after plastic surgery)
Mark: Paul McGill (A fresh-faced newcomer to Broadway)
Bebe : Alisan Porter (A modern dancer who had a troubled childhood)
Don: Brad Anderson (An All-American young man)
Kristine: Chryssie Whitehead (Al’s scatterbrained and tone-deaf wife)
Greg: Michael Paternostro (A witty and sarcastic homosexual dancer)
Judy: Heather Parcells (A nervous, awkward, and hopeful dancer)
Bobby: Ken Alan (A young man who hides his insecurities by making jokes)
Sheila: Deidre Goodwin (A brassy, powerful older woman from an abusive home)
Paul: Jason Tam (An amazing but timid and introverted dancer who used to perform in a drag show)
Maggie: Mara Davi (A kind dancer who grew up without a father.)
Mike: Jeffrey Schecter (A showy young dancer who started at an early age)
Connie: Yuka Taraka (A small and talkative Asian dancer)

Tagline: “N/A"

Synopsis: 16 dancers stand on an empty stage, auditioning for a spot in the chorus of a new Broadway show. The show’s director, Zach, decides to have all of the dancers tell him about their lives, their childhoods, and their motivations in order for him to get to know them better. As they reveal their stories, we begin to see each faceless member of the chorus as an individual, a talented personality with their own special talents. But these young men and women will spend their time onstage as anonymous members…of a chorus line.

What the press would say:

In 1975, A Chorus Line opened. Based on director Michael Bennett’s interviews and workshops with chorus dancers, the show featured a bare stage and 19 talented performers, many of whose characters were based on their own stories. The show went on to become an immediate sensation, running for 15 years (setting a rarely surpassed record) and winning a huge number of Tonys, including Best Musical. Unfortunately, a mediocre 1985 detour onto the silver screen led many to believe that the show would never properly translate into film. Well, it’s 2007 now, and acclaimed ensemble director Paul Thomas Anderson has directed a brand-new adaptation of the musical. And how does the jury rule? In the words of the musical’s show-stopping finale, it’s one singular sensation.

The casting directors wisely chose to resurrect the cast from the successful Broadway revival from last year, save for Bebe Neuwirth, an acclaimed Tony-winning musical actress and star of film and TV, and popular actor Michael Keaton as Cassie and Zach, respectively. This is an ensemble show through and through, and installing P.T. Anderson as the director helps the show retain its ensemble appeal that was lost when the 1985 fiasco shifted most of the attention to Cassie. Each actor paints an emotionally rich portrait of their character, and gets at least one moment in the movie-a part of a song, a heart-rending monologue, or even a dance solo, that reveals to us their deep individuality. By the end of the movie, we feel like we know them personally because they’re all so relatable. This is also aided by an almost claustrophobic feel to the movie, whose camera never once breaks from the interior of the theater. Editor Richard Pearson does a great job of creating an almost rhythmic, yet haphazard pace. Dion Beebe’s cinematography not only captures the emotions painted across the character’s faces in up-close shots, but the huge yet intimate setting of the stage. Some of my favorite shots include the audience that is totally darkened and empty, except for the small light that indicates where Zach sits with his desk and lamp. The dancers can barely see Zach; instead they rely on his intimidating voice instructing them through the loudspeakers. Interestingly enough, we barely see Zach up close-as if he is as emotionally distant from us as he is from the dancers.

This movie would be nothing without a talented cast. A Chorus Line is, essentially, a character study times 19. It’s hard to pick a standout, but I would definitely deliver praise to Bebe Neuwirth. She is absolutely heartbreaking as Zach’s ex-girlfriend, who she left when she went to L.A. to pursue a film career. She is an extremely talented dancer, but she needs work badly and pleads with Zach to let her join the chorus. The problem is that she’s too good-she stands out. The breaking point comes when Cassie dances with the “kids”…but she’s too stylized, and she won’t look good when she backs up a star on stage. Tearfully, she exclaims to Zach, “I’ll take chorus-if you take me!” It’s a classic film moment, and she delivers it beautifully. I can also say that Deirdre Goodwin is amazing as the powerful, aging dancer Sheila, Natalie Cortez is wonderful and charismatic as a smart, independent Puerto Rican, and Paul McGill makes an impressive showing as the witty and homosexual Greg. Actually, I changed my mind about a standout. Remember this name for the future: Jason Tam. His character, Paul, delivers a heart-rending and famous monologue late in the movie that won its originator a Tony. The monologue details how the teenaged Paul, outcast from his peers because of his passion for dancing, lies to his parents and takes a job in a drag show because he wants to dance so badly. Tears shimmer in Tam’s eyes, and every word is filled with emotion. Even the moments when he pauses, his face tells us so much. Paul’s fallen ambitions and quest for redemption are evident in every syllable he makes. He’s a relatively unproven actor, but I hope that his performance is recognized, because it was my favorite of the year.

22 years ago, a legend called “A Chorus Line” opened on Broadway. It will never be matched, but this film adaptation does it plenty of justice, while shining on its own. It’s hugely entertaining but also resonant in this day of quests for fame and closeted homosexuality (both huge parts of the story). A Chorus Line is a great film with an amazing cast, and that’s all I can say because I can’t find words that will describe the experience of seeing this movie.

Best Picture (AMPAS)
Best Picture-Musical/Comedy (HFPA)
Best Ensemble (SAG)
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Best Adapted Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson and Bill Condon
Best Actress: Bebe Neuwirth
Best Supporting Actor: Jason Tam
Best Supporting Actor: Paul McGill
Best Supporting Actress: Natalie Cortez
Best Supporting Actress: Deidre Goodwin

No comments: