The most interesting aspect of Robert Altman's feature with and about Chicago's Joffrey Ballet is how hard it is to separate its documentary elements from its fictional ones. Malcolm McDowell's portrayal of the company's artistic director as a blowhard and asshole is at least partially fictional, and too familiar as an Altman type to seem fresh; the exciting footage of the dance performances is obviously documentary—and exemplary in its unfussy use of long shots. Between these two poles are scenes whose relation to reality is more indeterminate—in particular those focusing on the rehearsals, which comprise the heart of the film. Neve Campbell, who cowrote the story with scenarist Barbara Turner, plays one of the dancers; although her character isn't especially interesting, her story furnishes a minimal narrative thread to hold the rest together. PG-13, 112 min.
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