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  • The DVD extras with some movies make the film seem better than it did just watching it. "The Company" is a good example.

    I'd wondered, briefly, why star Neve Campbell also got producer credit. The DVD 'making of' documentary explains that the whole project was her idea; she'd been a dancer long before she took up acting, and wanted to combine the two. She chose Altman to direct, because of his skill at portraying relations and interactions among people in groups.

    Altman did a fine job depicting dance, both rehearsals and performances. Campbell showed she can still dance. Malcolm McDowell gave a great performance as the acerbic company director. The Joffrey dancers were brilliant. Altman has created a dazzling cinematic album of what the world of dance is like at the beginning of the 21st century.

    But the story arc was weak. This was no accident. In a recent (October 2004) interview, Altman said:

    Question: "Why do you think you're drawn to stories about big groups of people sharing the same space? Did it have anything to do with growing up in such a large, close-knit family?"

    Robert Altman: "Possibly. I don't know. That's a little too cerebral for me. I'm not much interested in stories anyway. I'm more interested in reactive behavior."

    That sums up "The Company" very nicely. The movie is a montage of scenes of "reactive behavior" among realistic characters, and in this it is more like real life than a more structured story would have been.

    Of course there is some story structure here, involving the creation of a new dance. This story is engaging, because the outside choreographer is a fey flake, and dance disaster seems foredoomed. But the dancers, being good soldiers, follow his orders diligently. And despite all expectations, at least all of my expectations, their climactic performance is superb.

    But this story is not central to the movie. Again like life, it unfolds amidst all sorts of other organizational and interpersonal drama.

    And for this reason the movie left me unsatisfied. Part of what I look for in movies, and in books, is a story arc: a beginning, a middle, and an end. I look for this precisely because life is rarely that neat. Many directors deliver this arc (and many more try to, and fail). Robert Altman chose not to try. He is free to do that, and I am free to rate this movie 7/10.
  • "The Company" is a lovely commercial for the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago (for New Yorkers this is in fact the same modern ballet company that used to be based at City Center but left the competitive dance fund raising environment here to have the stage to itself in Chicago).

    A labor of love for producer/story writer/star/former dancer Neve Campbell, she was determined to make the first film about a whole company, not just using the dance world for a backdrop of individual melodrama, and with long passages of actual performances. So she brought in the primo director of ensembles, Robert Altman. But clearly she made compromises to get the film made that put his creativity as a director in a straight jacket and only lets his trademark talents fleetingly shine through.

    The key was getting the Joffrey's cooperation and I can only imagine the tough negotiations that resulted in this pretty much being a whitewash of the ballet world, or of any creative endeavor, in sharp contrast to the behind-the-scenes reality shows "Project Greenlight" on HBO or "The Fire Within" about Cirque du Soleil's "Varekai" that was on Bravo. I surmise a long list of thou shalt not's that appear to include items such as:

    -- no views of the non-artistic administrators, board, or fund raisers (there's a passing exhortation to a flashy choreographer Robet Desrosiers to stay within the budget, but he gets the complicated costumes and sets he wants anyway);

    -- no homosexual relationships (there's a passing reference to the dancers AIDS has taken including "Bob", which cognoscenti have to know refers to the company's founder Robert Jeffrey, and Malcolm McDowall as the egotistical artistic director "Alberto Antonelli," a stand-in presumably for current company director Gerald Arpino, urges fellow Italian-American men not to make their boys, like he had to, "hide their ballet shoes");

    -- no eating disorders (we do twice hear "Mr. A," half-jokingly, urge the company to eat salads and vegetables and there's one fast, quiet exchange in passing that I think was about diet pills);

    -- blame dancers' problems on dysfunctional parents and mentors, recalling that vivid song from "A Chorus Line" - "Everything was beautiful at the ballet" as dancers seek to escape messy situations through temporary perfect beauty.

    Altman does get to assert his artistic priorities in a few ways. He effectively seizes on the ageism in dance, showing that it's not just the tyranny of aging bodies, as would affect any athlete, but that dancers with experience speak up for themselves and are more difficult to control in a viciously autocratic environment than ambitious, financially desperate, and, literally, pliable young dancers.

    It's also the first time I've seen a camera expose the swarm of acolyte assistants to the director, revealing them as ex-dancers whom "Mr. A" still dismissively calls "babies" and who resent the new stars even as they dance vicariously through them.

    The other beautiful Altman touch is when the significant character developments take place not center stage in a crowd but through a look or line happening way in the corner of the screen, like the expression on James Franco, as Cambell's chef beau, when she avoids introducing him to her family amidst a rush of congratulators.

    But visually and musically the Joffrey is a wonderful choice, as the choreographers represented range from Arpino to Alwin Nikolais to Laura Dean and MOMIX. A centerpiece danced by Campbell is a sexy Lar Lubovitch pas de deux to the signature song "My Funny Valentine" which is used as a leitmotif, for reasons that still seem murky to me after hearing Altman explain why on "Charlie Rose," throughout the film in versions also by Elvis Costello, Chet Baker, and the Kronos Quartet. The music ranges from classical to jazz to the ethereal pop of Julee Cruise, Mark O'Connor's in-between "Appalachia Waltz", and the lovely score by Van Dyke Parks.
  • THE COMPANY shows several slices of lives (that of the company, and those of various other characters) over a period of a few months or so. So many things happen during that time: large, small, hugely significant, totally mundane, sad, frustrating, thrilling, indifferent. Through it all, there is so much beauty, emotion and human reality. There is also a LOT of wonderful dance, and fascinating, very authentic, glimpses at preparation for, and creation of, real professional ballet performances.

    Anyone needing a continuous, linear, 'a, to b, to climax and neat ending' plot will not find that here. The movie has its own rhythms, and was completely engrossing throughout for me, as well as entertaining. I love traditional, straightforwardly plotted movies (good ones, that is, of which there are many), but this movie is its very own animal, and it's wonderful. It is absolutely the most honest, true-to-real-life movie (that I've seen, anyway) ever made about the life, work and culture of a professional ballet company (not that they are all alike, but there is much that is universal) and some of the people (friends, family, audience members, etc.) who interact with it at times. And, what a treat to have a 'ballet movie' with authentic, good-to-excellent professional dancers in realistic stage performances. (CENTER STAGE was mostly sickeningly ridiculous, as was its 2008 sequel, to an even greater degree) and the audition scenes in SAVE THE LAST DANCE were EMBARRASSINGLY bad--they even misspelled Juilliard--oy!)

    Always, audience members need to open themselves up, and try to experience a movie (or any piece of art/entertainment) on its own terms. You may like it or not, think it succeeds or not. But you don't go to TERMINATOR 3 expecting it to operate like an intimate, quiet, nuanced character study, and then condemn it because it didn't meet those expectations. With this movie, you need to understand and accept that you'll be seeing assorted moments, just various pieces and details of lives, and let go of the idea that they'll form into a finite "story" (shouldn't be too hard for Altman fans). For me, the pieces were fascinating enough to make the whole extremely rewarding and beautiful.

    By the way, I did find myself caring very much about the characters in THE COMPANY, although differently than I might about the characters in a more traditionally-plotted movie. The characterizations are very real, not "actor-ish," from those who *are* actual actors, as well as those who are not. So many beautiful sequences, but one that really struck me as I watched was as Ry (Campbell's character) arrives home late, after an exciting, triumphant night, prepares for bed, and begins to cry. This sequence is alternated with scenes of one of the male dancers alone in a studio, listening to music, moving to it, trying to begin choreographing a dance. So true to life, and moving.

    This is really a wonderful movie, and I hope there are enough people around who appreciate and enjoy this kind of thing, for more such movies to be made. Kudos to Mr. Altman, Ms. Campbell, and all the others involved.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Watching "The Company", I was suddenly aware of how stylistically similar Robert Altman is to one of my other favourite directors, Frederick Wiseman.

    Wiseman is a documentary filmmaker who typically picks a space or institution as his subject (a high school, a town, a military base, a zoo, a hospital etc), and then sets about filming human beings as they work and interact within these self-contained environments. Wiseman improvises, shoots without a screenplay, is subtly satirical, hires small crews and seems content to simply observe people as they go about their various day-to-day routines within their chosen fields or environments.

    Altman operates in a similar way. With "The Company" he sets his sights on the Joffrey Ballet Group of Chicago, voyeuristically observing its inhabitants over the course of several months. There is seemingly no overriding narrative, no overt plot, only a series of connective strands, each character existing as a pebble in a vast mosaic.

    What separates Altman from Wiseman, however, is Altman's acute awareness of genre. Altman enjoys subverting expectations, turning war on its head in "MASH", noir with "The Long Goodbye", deconstructed "Bonnie and Clyde" with "Thieves Like Us", ripped apart the western with "Buffalo Bill" and "Mrs Miller", mauled the murder mystery with "Gosford Park" and pretty much invented the anti-narrative multi-character mosaic (badly imitated by Paul Haggis, Lawrence Kasdan, John Sayles, and Paul Thomas Anderson) with films like "Nashville" or "Short Cuts".

    With "The Company", the narrative being deconstructed is your usual "star is born" tale ("Showgirls", "Red Shoes", "All About Eve", "Black Swan" etc). Actress Neve Campbell, at first glance, appears to be the heart of the picture. She plays your typical lowly artist stereotype who works hard, hoping for that lucky break which will lead to her starring in the film's final grand performance.

    But as the film progresses, Altman will continually undermine the genres usual obstacles and clichés. Watch how he sets up Neve's final performance, only to have her fall and be pulled out of the show. Watch how he sets up Neve's argument with her lover, only to have them peacefully fall asleep together. Watch how he sets up a pushy mother who is consistently unable to get a word in. Watch how he sets up a thunderstorm which has no effect on the performance. Watch how he sets up the vindictive father of one ballet dancer, only to have the guy consistently brushed off.

    Time and time again, conflicts are set up and then undermined. This notion of avoiding conflict, of dodging the act of telling a story, is epitomised in the film by Mr A, the manager of the ballet company (and an obvious stand in for Robert Altman), who leaves the room whenever someone wishes to argue with him. The result is that, not only are conventions subverted, but the very act of storytelling seems avoided.

    One thus recalls the climax to Altman's "Thieves Like Us", a crime movie which likewise subverted gangster clichés. That film promised us your typical last act, gangster bloodbath, our bank robber heroes dying in slow motion, a hail of bullets peppering their bloody bodies. But when his climactic shootout occurs, Altman pulls the rug out from under our feet and cuts away. In this simple scene, we see how Altman operates. What is usually denied is given precedence; the spaces omitted in "normal" films are given, by Altman, room to breathe.

    For better or worse, reversals like this - both obvious and subtle - take place constantly throughout Altman's filmography. Enjoyment of his films thus depends on the audience having an intimate awareness of what is being subverted, deconstructed or undermined, which is perhaps why Altman is so despised. Those who like his films tend to like him for what he doesn't do. What he sets up and then rejects.

    Beyond all this you have the typical self-referential Altman layer. The act of preparing, improvising and putting on a show (ballet), is mirrored to the act of preparing, improvising and creating Altman's film. And of course you need a creative force in both worlds, personified by Mr A (Malcolm McDowell) in the film, Altman's doppelgänger. Such a self-referential layer is typical of Altman. "Nashville", "Buffalo Bill", "MASH", "Gosford Park", "Prairie Home Companion", "The Player", "Cookie's Fortune" etc, all revolve around large groups of people getting together and putting on a performance. What's fresh about "The Company" is the sheer level of restraint.

    8/10 - Worth two viewings.
  • desperateliving22 May 2004
    9/10
    9/10
    Some of the dances are tiny religious experiences. The film doesn't look nearly as good as some of Altman's others, but there are flashes of awesome beauty: a topless male dancer alone in a room with golden beams of light, and Neve Campbell in her bath. The movie looks at the queeny pretensions of the boys (and their fathers), the dancers' sex lives (who are more '60s than their instructor knows), and the company leader, played by Malcolm McDowell, whose occasional flakiness is caught by one black dancer. I couldn't help but think of McDowell as an Altman self-criticism: an elderly director working with small budgets, prone to artiness, who champions art as being organic, who rounds up a large crew of performers and calls them "babies." The day-in-the-life shapelessness of the movie didn't at all bother me, though one character, who asks to stay in a dancer's apartment, is dropped pretty quickly. And James Franco is in it. 9/10
  • Yet another marvelous, marvelous film from Robert Altman. I hope that he makes a hundred more movies before he leaves us. What really needs to be said about The Company, though, is this: kudos to Neve Campbell! This is certainly an Altman film, but it was Ms. Campbell who organized this whole project and pulled it off. Who knew that this young beauty had merely been slumming the whole time? Her years in awful television drama and slasher flicks paid off. She came up with the story, put up some of the money, and she was the one who convinced Altman to take the job. Not only that, but she comes off as almost too modest with the relatively small role she has in the film. Of course, she's in it more than anyone else, and we get to learn about her life more than anyone else's, but the spotlight is simply on ballet itself. And what a beautiful art it is! The film works like a musical, with ballet numbers popping up throughout the loose narrative. Most are unannounced: these are just some of the performances the company (the Joffrey Ballet Company of Chicago) give throughout their season. The final setpiece (a hallmark of Robert Altman's cinema) is built up to through most of the film. The Company works much like a documentary, a documentary that makes no commentary on its subject. It's all just observation. In many ways, it's not like a regular Altman film, because another of his hallmarks is the swift and thorough characterizations his subjects receive. By the end of Nashville, those 20+ characters are so potent in our minds that the audience could write novels based on them. Not so with this one, where we really only get wisps of the people. It's a subtler approach than Altman's more famous films; it's a grace, I suppose, that fits the subject. We watch the everyday events that occur in the company, the successes and the failures, the fading careers and the beginnings, the egos of the stars and the humbleness of the chorus. The film also follows the characters (this time mostly Neve's) lives after the season is over. Campbell has to work as a bartender in a trendy club. Along the course of the film she meets a handsome young chef played by James Franco. Malcolm McDowell shows the strongest personality in the film, mostly because he's playing the company's head. The kind of humor that is specifically Altman's is not common in The Company, but when it does pop up it's always around McDowell. This is a wonderful film, not to be missed. It's also the rare film that I really wish I could have seen in a theater. Perhaps one day, at a distant Robert Altman retrospective, I will have that opportunity. 9/10.
  • randy_berke7 August 2004
    First, I believe I have seen every dance movie ever made, but I can't ever remember one I enjoyed so much. I personally have been affiliated with the Dance world for most of my life. Not as a dancer but as a Stage Manager. The fact that Ms. Campbell and Mr. Altman allowed the audience to share most, if not all of the Ballets in their entirety was most enjoyable. The usage of High-Def allowed the audience to really feel as if they are there. I had the privilege of watching Ms. Campbell work on "Party of Five" while she was at Sony, where I have had continued employment for almost 10 years. I had great respect for her then as an Actress but have a entire new admirations for now as a dancer. I would love to see "The Company II"
  • Lets hope that Altman makes films for another 20 years and that he stays as adventuresome as he currently is.

    In 'The Long Goodbye' Altman invented a rather new camera stance, literally asking the actors to improvise staging and having the camera discovering them.

    It took a few decades for him to get back to such experiments with 'Gosford.' Now he takes it even further with perhaps the purest problem in film cinematography: how do you film dance?

    Forget that this features Campbell in a vanity role: she is good enough and doesn't detract. Forget about any modicum of plot: there isn't any. And unlike 'Nashville' or the similarly selfreferential 'Player' there is no cynical commentary.

    The commentary itself is selfreferential this time. Yes, this time the center of the film is how 'Mr A' orchestrates movement and images. This is most of all about himself, and is far, far more intelligent and subtle than say, 'Blowup.'

    But along the way, you get possibly the best dance experience on film. That's because they've been able to use many cameras. There are not as many as 'Dancer in the Dark,' but each camera dances, engages with the dance and the dance of people and objects around the dance. So we get four layers of dance: the actual ballet, the orchestration of people around the production, the dancing cameras (enhanced by non-radical appearing radical editing) and the dance within the mind of Mr A who encourages, follows and captures them all.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
  • The Company is the best ballet movie I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a few. Most ballet fans will tolerate a silly, self-conscious,infantile story just to see the dancing. There was nothing to endure, however, by watching The Company. The dancing was wonderful, refreshing, and, at times, hypnotically beautiful; for that alone I will purchase the DVD once it is released. The story, though, was a very pleasant surprise. The dancers were adults; they were stoical, determined, talented professionals. There was no whining melodrama, only dedication. There was no sordid, steamy sex scenes with subsequent sleazy betrayals, but sweet, sensual, real love. Even those in power were not the usual glamorous megalomaniacs; they were dedicated, passionate, and astute. It's been a long time since I have been so delighted with any movie, let alone a ballet movie. What a wonderful departure from the mundane, silly world that Hollywood generally makes of ballet.
  • The ballet sequences are probably the most breathtaking we've seen in a fiction film. Altman succeeds in putting ballet in the fore, instead of characters or story. This was his intention, and on this front he gets a 8/10. However, where there are not ballet scenes, there is a story: Neve Campbell wrote it. And she seems not to have seen any other romance movie since the dawn of time. Its just the kind of romance subplot a little girl WOULD write: with soft lighting, flickering candlelight, a beautiful boy who does nothing wrong, listens to your problems, sleeps with you, and lets you get on with your dancing. He appears when it is convenient for both Neve and Bob Altman to insert a romantic scene: and just as gimmicky a brushstroke as this, is his entrance always being marked by the same song, My Funny Valentine. It was nice how they had four different versions of the song, for different moods: the upbeat poolhall number for their meeting, the romantic one for the seduction, and a more melancholy one when she's missing him. Anyone who knows this song (most of us), feel how gimmicky a device this is when it arrives again.

    So far is this from the dramatic conflict between love and dancing in Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes that we're almost barren of any narrative drive or dramatic conflict at all. That's my main problem with The Company - nothing goes wrong. Or when it does go wrong (raining on the night of a performance), it always serves to improve the moment for the protagonists: indeed it is an incredible scene, Neve dancing a duet with a Joffret dancer. A moving, beautiful dance. But that's precicely the problem: there is no problem!

    Malcolm McDowell is no good. He gets a C-. He tries, but its so obvious throughout that he knows not a jot about ballet, and he just walks around play-acting at a ballet coach from the movies, while the real Joffret coaches tell the dancers what they need to know. And his calling everyone "babies" is a clumsy attempt to create character through a catchphrase.

    6/10

    Beautiful ballet scenes, A+ for putting the dancing centre-stage, so to speak (as opposed to the tawdry melodrama called Centre Stage). But all we've got to go on narrative-wise is a thin-as-a-ballet-ribbon romance subplot. If this wasn't there, actually, it might have been a very successful art movie - but its gimmicky presence is so clumsy its a fault.
  • Robert Altman sets the stage and lets his players do what they do in his films. He's renown as one of the great directors to give actors freedom (he's probably in his own way as meticulous as Stanley Kubrick, only with far less takes), though one wonders if from time to time he does give his direction to an actor or to make sure they know what they're doing. But in his films, like with this Chicago dancing company presented in his 2003 film The Company, the people doing the work need to know what they're doing, and that's the key to getting process, since dance, like film, combines many elements (in terms of dance there's physical movement, there's acting and performance, there's emotion, there's music and lighting, and so on).

    I imagine that's what drew Altman to the project (it was said it took some consideration before he accepted the job), that and perhaps a connection with the character Malcolm McDowell plays, Mr. Antonelli. He doesn't have much of a ego, but when he needs to (or just wants to) he'll put on airs. While some of the students may roast him eventually- there's a company Christmas party where he's ruthlessly but pleasantly mocked- they always take what he says seriously, since when he speaks one listens, even if it's a rambling speech about what the 1960's were like. He, like Altman, is in control even when he doesn't seem to be doing much. And how the stage is set, as we see, goes a long way for a fantastic dance set-piece, be it with thirty people in crazy costumes or a couple in very sensual poses.

    The Company has not much plot to speak of- then again, Altman would probably rather get a root canal than worry about a plot- except that it's about a dance/ballet company putting on performances throughout a season, with some minor drama here and there, a small romance between a superstar in the group played by Neve Campbell and a chef played by James Franco (tender scenes but played for real, much like those in Thieves Like Us). But there are a few great scenes (and as Hawks would say, no bad ones), and one of them might be one of my favorite scenes, in terms of intentional (or not) artistic elements coming together, in any Altman film. There's a performance out at night in a park in front of hundreds. The first part goes reasonably well, with thunderstorm sounds in the background. Then Campbell and another dancer take the stage, and as the lovely string music swells, the lightning and thunder as well, and the rain falls and the crowd looks anxious but all the while wrapped up in the completely professional-breathtaking dancing on stage, with little dust and other things flying in the air. It's glorious.

    How much that was on the spot for Altman, or if it was planned to just shoot in the impending storm (or, perhaps, if it's all just made up for the movie), it's a really wonderful set piece among many others that are more conventionally stage-bound and shot with multiple cameras. The assortment is nice to see (a song from David Lynch's Industrial Symphony #1 even comes up). But it's those little scenes between people, where Altman breaks down artifice (or adds to it seamlessly, like a dance itself) that The Company gains its strength. One of which is the first time Franco and Campbell meet eye to eye at a bar. Watch as Franco sits and watched her play pool. This could go any number of ways from creepy to erotic, but it's more playful and ambiguous than that. We see the aftermath of this scene in a morning-after follow-up, but it's how Altman lets these actors be natural, find their space to look at one another or play pool, that is extraordinary.

    What The Company lacks in melodramatic tension or a real driving force towards something- the one criticism it could be given, though not a harsh one, is an almost disdain for any continuing conflict- is made up for in a principle need to express what it's like to create something, anything, on stage or on film, that's worth something. It's the work of an old master still looking for ways to create, or observe it being done.
  • I suppose you can call this splendid movie a documentary showing several months in the life of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. However, as there are some dramatized elements (albeit to a minimum), you can't technically call it a documentary. And yet, it's more truthful than many "full" documentaries. Completely free from contamination of melodrama, the movie shows us, in a matter-of-fact manner, things behind the stage – dedication and sacrifices, lucky breaks that even the top talents sometimes need, experienced performers arguing anainst new ideas, injury and understudy stepping in at a moment's notice, disappointment from being fired, and much more.

    Doing what he does best, master Altman gives you an inconspicuous spot in the rehearsal hall, in the meeting room, back stage, to show you how an idea evolves right from an artist's concept to a successful performance – the road that is sometimes painful, sometimes exhilarating and everything in between, the process that affects the lives of the people who are part of the whole. Overlapping dialogue here is not just Altman's artistic and technical trademark, but the way people REALLY speak. Through his amazing deployment of the camera, he also gives the audience a kaleidoscope of events and emotions that are fleeting and fluid, and yet remain with you long after the movie.

    In addition to the insight of the documentary, dance lovers will enjoy the generous helping of dance scenes, particularly the outdoor performance in a thunder storm at the beginning. And although personal story is not the point of this movie, the depiction of the relationship between the characters played by Neve Campbell (the dancer) and James Franco (the chef) is wonderful. The scene of their first meeting is a joy to watch – she is playing pool by herself and really enjoying it while he, a drink in hand, regards her somewhat stoically at a distance. The two of them are depicted in so many angles, sometimes in the same frame, sometimes separately. This scene is so mesmerizing that you'll forget the passage of time. At long last, they make eye contact and smile. Then, a cut to the next morning in her apartment when they are just waking up, as he offers to cook breakfast for them. An absolutely beautiful sequence.

    Campbell and Franco are simply wonderful. The icon of the movie, however, is artistic director of the company Alberto Antonelli , generally known as "Mr A", who comes off larger than life with the flare of Malcolm McDowell, who undoubted is remembered best from "A clockwork orange".

    To people who have experienced the joy of stage performance, even in a very modest way of an amateur choir or theatre group, there is the bonus of additional empathy – the sometimes not so smooth rehearsals, the panic as the performance approaches and nothing seems to work, the last minute jitters before curtain, the final jubilation when everything miraculously falls into place and the sincere applause of the audience. Such empathy!
  • I'm no dance critic, but. . . I was very disappointed with the choice of "The Blue Snake" as the ultimate and climactic "number" in "The Company". To me, it really stood out as the least interesting and most cliched of all the dances in the film. Those outrageous costumes! That "Ice Capades" choreography! Altman & Co. really ought to have chosen a piece that would have shown the Joffrey's more adventuresome side.

    I went into this film knowing that it was a "dance movie" with minimal storyline, and I was still disappointed. It's not a good sign when I start looking at my watch halfway through a film. It doesn't bother me that a "dance film" eschews the Melodrama of "The Turning Point" or "A Chorus Line." But "The Company" also eschews Interest! There was basically nothing to "hang onto" outside the dance sequences. Only Ry (Neve Campbell's character) was given any appreciable screentime, and aside from a few quiet moments, she wasn't given very much to do.

    Okay, I admit that I liked one dramatic scene a lot: a flirtatious moment between Ry and Josh - the chef who looks like a male model - which takes place in a dive bar. There should have been more scenes like that.

    I rate the film a 6 - dramatically disappointing, while the quality of the dance sequences varies from sublime to ridiculous.
  • I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite movies of all time. Under the direction of Robert Altman, The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago along with writer/producer and star Neve Campbell, bring vibrance and life to the screen. The camera work is very unrestricted simply because of the fact that the movie deals with real dancers, so there is nothing to hide technically in terms of doubling feet because an actor who had no dance experience would have to be doubled. The dances have color, light and a life of their own. Altman is great at using the spaces and situations to create an "organic" feel to the piece. The audience can see things that dancers see and hear point shoes on the stage. It's amazing. Even if one isn't "into ballet" they should still see this film for a solid story and wonderful dance numbers that will leave you wanting to sign up for a dance class.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The trailer for "The Company" is tantalizingly vague and compelling - flashes of dance and movement, hints of a ballerina's personal life (when we see Neve Campbell playing pool in a bar), the forceful projection of Malcolm McDowell as he instructs his troop, but no clear sense of what the film's story is about. And it turns out that the trailer is an accurate representation of the film. We see evocative imagery, brilliant dancing, and a forceful character presented by McDowell, but still leave without a clear sense of the story.

    The film is presented as Robert Altman's film, and as director and co-producer, it's a fitting appellation. But as star, co-writer, and co-producer, the film is as much Neve Campbell's as anyone's.

    Initially I sat through the film feeling a bit frustrated by the incompleteness of the story. But as time passed before I was able to write this review, it was able to gestate a bit, and I ended up feeling that Robert Altman and Neve Campbell deliberately and in some ways brilliantly deliver exactly the film they wanted.

    The stories presented in "The Company" are frustratingly abbreviated. We see Josh (James Franco) first spot Ry (Neve Campbell) in the restaurant where he works, though she does not see him. We later see them in a bar - he covertly watches her while she plays pool. We don't see them meet - instead, the film flashes forward to them waking up together. The next scene with him has him entering her apartment with his own key. Clearly, time has passed and we have only seen flashes of their lives together, without the opportunity to watch the characters develop.

    Other subplots are similarly condensed. We see a new dancer (John Gluckman) fumbling about trying to find his place in the Company - pleading to share a locker with another dancer, struggling to find an open spot on the bar, begging to sleep on a fellow dancer's apartment floor. A quick glimpse into the impoverished life of a new dancer, but no clear development, nor a clear resolution for that matter. In another storyline, we see the interactions between a gorgeous young dancer (David Gombert) and his over-controlling boyfriend (Yasen Peyankov, who is listed as his mentor in the credits, but the relationship seems so much more), but we fail to receive a complete picture of their story.

    But in a way, it seems that these abbreviated stories are in fact intentional, meant more like sporadic snapshots into their lives rather than a complete film reel. And in that sense, the film mirrors the art it features. Dance, and ballet in particular, invokes emotions through color, movement, and sound. The stories told in a ballet are hinted at, suggested by the dancers' actions. Similarly, the film hints at the characters' stories through quick images, but without presenting a complete story. The audience is given a few points in time, and is left to connect the dots and complete the story themselves - just as we would at a ballet.

    And the film presents just enough hints to be able to fill in those blanks, or at least some of them. We see how hard it is for Ry and Josh to stay together. They are separated continuously throughout the movie - when he has to work on New Year's Eve, when he's later separated from her across a crowded bar, when he's already asleep when she returns home, and ultimately, when he's trapped on the opposite side of the stage from her at the film's conclusion. But though the theme of being separated recurs throughout, in the end it seems to be about being able to surmount those obstacles to stay together. Though Josh is already asleep when Ry returns home on New Year's Eve, she is able to snuggle against him on the couch and fall asleep in his arms. Though they are separated across the stage, he is able to sneak across during the curtain call to be with her.

    Ultimately, the main "character" of the film is the ballet company itself. A large portion of the film covers the company's dance rehearsals and performances with minimal plot development involved, and it's fitting that the film concludes with a curtain call for the ballet troop. Another reviewer wisely noted that in the end, the film is Robert Altman's love poem to the Joffrey Ballet (evidenced by four different renditions of "My Funny Valentine" that play throughout the film). And ultimately, that alone may be enough of a reason for this film.
  • In answer to: Can't believe I sat through this oh so lost movie and where is the story?" questions: The story is in the details of everyday life of a dancer. It is not a beginning, middle and end type of movie. And that is the whole point, not to mention the wonderful dancing. I love dance movies about ballet and this is easily one of my favorites. The slice of dancers life with no true absolute focus is what makes it so perfect. The dancers and people coming in and out of the company. The small little glimpses of individuals and what happens is what makes it feel real. If the only way you are satisfied with a dance movie is to have a linear story line, watch The Turning Point (which I also love) but if you want the feeling of just a candid camera following a dance company and a few of it's principals, I highly recommend this movie. And if nothing else, the dance numbers are fantastic and worth watching the movie for.
  • urnotdb18 March 2005
    Altman can recreate worlds and immerse the viewer in them, documentary style; if you like that world, you'll like the movie but often he can make you like it anyway. The ribbons in the opening dance sequence highlight the extraordinary coordination and discipline involved in choreographing and performing a modern ballet. I think this is the central "motif" in this exploration of a few days in the lives of these unique physical artists who form what is essentially a single organism ( a Company!) on stage. This backstage glimpse is punctuated by several brilliant "modern" dance sequences on a par with American in Paris or Singing in the Rain (one number is literally in the rain). Good Campbell, (intentionally?) irritating McDowell, great score.
  • hawaiiannews13 March 2005
    What an absolute treat to have the magic and beauty of such excellent artistic creativity on film, rather than on stage, and to be on HBO or on a DVD in my home is fabulous!!! The genius behind the artistic expression was captured very well, and the absolute oneness of breath required, not only to dance in unison, but to grab the breath of the audience into each movement was spectacular! The development of characters, movements, and sets with special effects added to the overall appeal of this production. The story line was of no particular consequence, except to show the challenging dynamics in the every day lives of committed artists. The physical stamina and emotional strength required was captured very nicely as a side line, but influential. I also appreciate the historical documentation value of this film, by leaving a "footprint on film" as a sample of the artistry we so much appreciate in this threshold into the 21st century, which is normally limited to live performances "On Stage"..... Bravo! Bravo!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Not much of a story line but some absolutely stunning choreography. The main thing that I found annoying about this film was the way that the shots during the dance scenes kept cutting away to the audience or other characters when all I wanted to see was the ballet! Neve Campbell was excellent. This movie was never going to be a blockbuster so she was brave to push for it. I'm glad she did. Agree, don't go if you don't like ballet! If you love dance, you'll love this movie.

    *SPOILER ALERT*

    I was a little disappointed with the ending. There had already been dancers out through injury and for Ry to fall at the end seemed a little pointless to me. Once again, I was enjoying the dance and this seemed like a flat ending to the film. Nonetheless, a realistic portrayal of life in a ballet company.
  • I was surprised that no comments (so far) have compared this to Frederick Wiseman's (1995) "Ballet," which was a real documentary about a ballet company. Then I discovered that Ballet has too few votes to even post them. Oh well.

    I think the difference is that this one is more like a movie, more selected, with even hints of a plot. But it is basically a polished-up documentary about the Joffrey company, with some actors but mostly dancers. (And at least one actress dancing, Campbell.) The dance sequences, for the most part, were REALLY good, and the photography of them made them even better. Like Wiseman's movie, this one shows some of the things that aren't part of the staging, such as injuries. But Wiseman dwells on these things, while Altman simply acknowledges them. Anyway, I liked both.
  • joel_wbs14 March 2004
    This movie is Robert Altman's musical/dance film. It has many elements of a conventional musical/dance film (e.g., 42nd STREET) -- the dancer who's injured the night of the performance, backstage romantic betrayals, and a passionate, driven director -- but nothing here happens quite the way we'd expect. The betrayal takes place before the movie's narrative even begins; the passionate, driven director isn't a hard-drinking chain smoker (when we first see him, he's eating a salad); and the injured-dancer crisis is handled as a matter of routine -- twice -- with drama, but without melodramatics.

    Just like in jazz, where classic themes (such as "My Funny Valentine") can be endlessly updated and ever-interesting, so Altman plays upon variations of themes found in the musical/dance film. Altman even does this to the film's main musical theme, which happens to be "My Funny Valentine" itself (which is performed by Chet Baker, Elvis Costello, and the Kronos Quartet -- amongst others). The theme serves as a metaphor for the love affair between Ry and her boyfriend -- which in turn serves as a metaphor for Antonelli's love of dance, which can then be seen as a metaphor for Altman's own love of film.

    Just listen to the lyrics: "You look so laughable, unphotographable, but you're my favorite work of art."

    Just as Antonelli looks for something outside of "phony, lyrical ballet", so does Altman look for something outside of phony, "well-crafted" film making. This aspect of Ry's new boyfriend is what she finds so appealing in him. He's not a dancer. While her fellow company member friends gracefully perform dance moves even while doing something so common as bowling, he, however, falls flat on his face. Both of them are injured on-the-job. They each are perfect through their imperfections; and it's these imperfections that they ultimately find fascinating.

    Anybody who knows Altman knows that accidents and imperfections are what fascinates him. He often says about directing, "How can I tell the performers what I want to see, when what I want to see is something I've never seen before." To Altman, mistakes are more interesting than things that happen just as expected.

    I've noticed that there are a lot of people who missed this point in the film. Maybe they would be more happy with the "phony, lyrical ballet".
  • The Company is one of the best movies ever made about the life of artists. It doesn't have a climactic plotline and swelling music; on the contrary, it's relatively quiet, matter-of-fact, and rather ordinary. So if you're in the mood for a wrenching drama about one dancer's struggle to succeed, then don't shell out your $10. But for those who are truly interested in the dance world, in all its pains and joys, and want to explore the simple human struggle to get by, The Company is the perfect way to spend two hours.

    In an interesting way, it's a reality drama in the truest sense, without all the self-conscious posing, garish people, and horrific ploys: it's a quiet observation of members of a dance company as they go about their day-to-day lives during the course of a year. Neve Campbell plays a young, talented dancer named Ry in Chicago's Joffrey Ballet Company--she's not the prima donna ballerina (in fact, I don't think the Joffrey Ballet has any hierarchy like that), but she's not on the bottom rung either. For one ballet piece, she's an understudy; yet then she dances in a star duet to "My Funny Valentine" (one of the most beautiful performances I've ever seen on film). But the film isn't just about her: a Robert Altman film is an orchestral piece, with tons of interesting threads running everywhere. The other primary character is Malcolm McDowell's artistic director, a artistically brilliant but slightly out-of-touch man who flits here and there creating maelstroms of emotion wherever he goes. Then there's Ry and her boyfriend, Josh (the always hot James Franco), and glimpses into other dancers' lives as well. And throughout the film, "My Funny Valentine" plays as a poignant ironic theme.

    There isn't really any plotline, just little individual dramas that mean nothing and yet everything at the same time. And that's the main point of the film that makes it so wonderful: how it shows the beauty, the sexiness of ordinary life. Sure, being a ballet dancer has a glamour to it that being an accountant doesn't have; yet these aren't famous ballet dancers making tons of money and jet setting around. In fact, this is probably a more realistic portrayal of most artists today: barely scraping by, but doing what they love. The movie shows the pain and sacrifice that these artists put into their work, adding a striking element of realism that makes you appreciate the finished product all the more. And the scenes outside of the studio are interestingly compelling too--ordinary scenes of going to dinner with friends, hanging out at the bar, dealing with parents--things that most of us could relate to.

    Not only did I gain a better understanding of the dance world from this movie, but a new perspective on life as well. Life doesn't have to be an epic drama with passionate love affairs and tragic situations; there's a richness and value in just being with the people you love and doing something that, however unrecognized, underpaid, or ordinary, is worthwhile to you.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was a project that was very slow to get made but its very easy to see how serious all the actors and dancers took their jobs because real pain and sweat are evident. Story is about the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and the year long process that it takes to cast and assemble the right people for an ambitious show called Blue Snake. The lead female dancer is Loretta "Ry" Ryan (Neve Campbell) who works very hard during the day practicing her performance then at night waiting on tables in a club. The Artistic Director of the ballet company is Alberto Antonelli (Malcolm McDowell) who is very demanding but listens to everyone's complaints about various things that have to be done for the show. One of the biggest things Antonelli has to worry about is the small budget that he cannot control.

    *****SPOILER ALERT*****

    Ry finds a boyfriend in a young man named Josh (James Franco) who works as a chef and they enjoy each others company although their schedules frequently conflict. An older dancer named Harriet (Barbara Robertson) is having a difficult time adjusting to new techniques and she is at odds with the director and choreographer.

    This film is directed by the great Robert Altman and he was pursued for a long time to direct this but he kept resisting until he finally figured out why he was chosen. This film is about the process of creating something artistic with a small budget and this epitomizes Altman's career. Neve Campbell is a trained ballet dancer and not only is this her story but she helped produce it as well. Even though Altman directed this was made primarily because of Campbell's persistence and vision. She trained everyday for 4 months to get into shape like a dancer and her body is sleek and toned. Campbell performs her own dances and the films authenticity is because of her. Many of Altman's trademarks are prevalent here like the characters that we expect to see more of then don't. Actress Marilyn Dodds Frank plays Campbell's mother and her character drinks a lot and is always intruding in her daughters career and life. There is no big confrontation between the two because Altman never has that in his films. These are just the way these characters are and this is a big reason why his films are so realistic. The film does move about slowly and it's very difficult to really get emotionally involved with any of the characters but the hard work and sacrifices that they make cannot be denied. The honesty of the story and Campbell's realistic portrayal of a dancer make this film work.
  • The Company is far below the level of Robert Altman's best efforts. In contrast with Gosford Park's endlessly fascinating chatter weaving an intricate web of intrigues and secrets, there's much stretching and dancing, but very little delving into the backgrounds or relationships of the principals. There's hardly what you could call a plot. There are only a few strong characters. All you really get to hold things together somehow or provide some sense of continuity is a series of things that go wrong:

    (1) Among the many dance `numbers,' the one that stands out is the first, an outdoor performance featuring the Hollywood actress Neve Campbell (Scream 1,2, and 3, Wild Things), a trained dancer and the force behind the making of the whole film. A thunderstorm comes to buffet the audience and the dancers. The dancers bravely go on and the dance -- so we're told, anyway -- is a triumph. The entire sequence is dominated by a sense of impending disaster. A slippery stage could have meant serious injury. One also wonders about damage to valuable string instruments being played in the open to accompany the dance. All this is extremely distracting and excruciating to watch. Altman does succeed though in giving us a sense of what performances are like from the company's point of view -- struggles with physical problems; successful efforts (at best) to avert disaster.

    (2) An injury forces a new lead dancer to give up a role. This happens twice. We realize that dancers constantly face injury, or, as often, are dangerously in denial that they have one.

    (3) Another sort of injury prevents a dancer from performing the whole of a `number.' This happens to Neve Campbell at the end of the movie. It's just an arm injury, so not career-threatening, but enough to require a quick replacement by a stand-in.

    (4) A young man is replaced, but only for the latter part of a dance he's in -- because his energy seems to flag at that point in the performance. This nonetheless results in a terribly bruised ego for the young man and his union rep promises to lodge a formal protest. We get a sense of the constant threats to the ego in such an arbitrarily run system, along with the surprising news that union redress may be available in such cases.

    (5) One of the guys in the company takes a new girlfriend. This time again it's Neve Campbell who's the `injured' one, and at a post-performance celebration she delivers an `I was the last to know' speech to the bad boy. I saw nods of agreement from dancerly-looking audience members during this moment.

    (6) The aging female lead dancer - she's 43 - repeatedly protests about too-challenging new dances and refuses to make changes in the choreography of old ones. This potentially interesting, possibly tragic, theme of aging in what is really one of the world's most demanding sports is, however, only briefly touched on.

    (7) An argument occurs between the director and one dancer, who hates choreography of a dance he's in, in which men wearing skirts `give birth' -- and the director instantly reverses what he said about how to perform this moment the day before. The director is adamant, the dancer has lost his cool, and the conversation breaks down. He frequently ends unsatisfactory conversations by dismissing his interlocutor. The director's rule is autocratic and rarely challenged. However the company does get mild revenge toward the end in a mock restaging of the season's events at a party.

    All this adds up to something so generic and uninteresting as emotional truth or human experience that you are deeply grateful when at least the main dancer character, Neve Campbell, gets hooked up with a cook boyfriend, the intriguing James Franco. You're thankful for one young male movie star in the piece, because the real dancer `actors' - as usual - have very little presence or ability as actors. All James Franco gets to do is smile, kiss the girl, take off his shirt, and break some eggs. He does these things with lots of charm and charisma, but these are just crumbs tossed to us. The point however seems to be that dancers don't have time for much more than quick sex; it's like smoking a cigarette, something squeezed in.

    Altman's casts are usually heavy with talent. This time there are only three leads, Campbell, McDowell, and Franco. Ironically only the least used, Franco, has any real appeal.

    Ms. Campbell is little more than bustling and workmanlike. She has a few minutes with her pushy stage mother that provide some sense of relationships outside the company, but it's not enough.

    You will have a lot of trouble with this movie if you don't like Malcolm McDowell. As the `Italian' company director Alberto Altonelli, he is brusque, bossy, obtrusive -- really just a flaming a**hole with a lot of power to abuse. Is this how dance companies work? Where's the genius? Why does young Franco have more charisma and sex appeal? And what's this about a ceremony in which the blatantly English McDowell gets an award for `honoring the Italian-American community'? Okay; let's pretend that he's Italian. But do we have to pretend he has no English accent? If that weren't bad enough, his little speech about not discouraging their sons from becoming ballet dancers is jarring and crude, like all his speeches: it's the height of ingratitude, and you wonder how anyone so undiplomatic could get money for his company. Is it just possible that McDowell is a jarring and crude actor? His performance is wooden and unsubtle. All he has to qualify for this role is forcefulness. Granted, he has that. But his scenes are nothing but irritations.

    This is, at best, a generic treatment of an American ballet company. But it fails even on that level. How come none of the male dancers, not one, is shown to be gay? Isn't that a bit unrealistic about the culture of dance? Why the pretense that they're all straight, vying to have sex with the female dancers in the company?

    Neve's partner after their triumph in the rain has a private improv session unwinding to a Bach solo cello suite. It's rather fun - and would have worked better if it had been allowed to run by itself and not been constantly intercut with the scene of Neve in her apartment - a huge Hollywood-style creation right by the `El' with a glam bath. The improvised Bach session makes you realize that Flash Dance was better than this. There was another movie about a dance company, featuring real dancers again, that was better than this. It had a bit more plot, and perhaps better dances; the people seemed a tad more real as people - and yet it wasn't a great movie. Altman's film has spectacular dance sequences at the beginning and the end but they're just staging, not great dance, and they're window dressing to cover up the emptiness of the whole production.

    If you love dance and/or Altman you'll doubtless have to see this picture, but you won't be watching a particularly memorable ballet movie or getting Altman even at his average level.
  • paulzie5513 August 2005
    I attempted to watch this movie and quickly regretted the decision about 30 minutes into the film. I was under the impression that the movie would make some kind of feeble attempt at presenting a story in a timely manner with some basic character build-up. Boy was I wrong. The movie seemed to avoid every possibility of a plot with a climax. The movie makes a sorry attempt at portraying the lives of ballet dancers in a company. I'm sure some research into the background of Neve Campbell, the so-called star of the film, would reveal some interest and background into ballet,I hope. Any ballet dancer could have been lead character. This film would have been better suited as a one hour documentary on A&E or Bravo. Over half the movie seemed to be dedicated to actual ballet performances,which were nice, but really dull. I'm sure there is much time, dedication, and drama in the lives of ballet dancers who battle it out to be the one performer who gets to shine on stage during performances, but this movie does a real boring job at portraying it.
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