Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m celebrating with my one true #chickflick love – the dance movie. Today, it’s Anne Bancroft, Shirley MacLaine, and Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Turning Point.
The Turning Point (1977)
I don’t believe in being sorry. We are what we are.
I hadn’t ever seen The Turning Point, so when it popped up on my Netflix recommendations, I was thrilled. If there is one “guilty pleasure” in my life (and I really don’t feel at all guilty about it), it’s a good dance movie – specifically, ballet. Something about the bodies, moving more gracefully than I’ll ever hope to, combined with the music, and the layers of leg warmers on tights. Ballet has all of the beauty of femininity, and also all of the strength. It is a pleasure.
Baryshnikov’s not so bad to look at either.
The best part of The Turning Point is surely Anne Bancroft. And Shirley MacLaine in close second. These are two actresses at the height of their careers, and it shows.
The relationship between Bancroft’s Emma and MacLaine’s DeeDee is both complicated and romantic.
There is plenty of talk about men (both gay and straight), children, and dancing (dance movie, duh) – but the real romance is between these two women. One a former dancer, left to become a mother. The other a dancer just past her prime, wondering what it might have been like to have had a child of her own. Both focused on the other, more than anyone else in their lives.
Neither’s life is better than the other’s.
But both would like to live in the other’s shoes. There is jealousy. There is appreciation. There is love. And there is overwhelming sadness. It is an emotional film, if there ever was one.
It’s a dance movie, and it’s beautiful.
The dancing is particularly well shot, and that alone is enough to satisfy your need (my need) for gorgeousness on-screen. A romance between Baryshnikov and DeeDee’s daughter Emilia is plenty to scratch that itch for sex (it’s pretty, demure, dancer sex). Wayne and DeeDee have a painfully functional marriage and it’ll make you think it’s easy.
But ease and beauty are merely a backdrop.
A picturesque backdrop to a life full of difficult choices. If The Turning Point suggests anything about women, it is that their most important struggles are with each other. That their best bonds, are also, with each other. And that hard choices – that is the great burden of the “fairer” sex.
The end. Arm in arm, Bancroft and MacLaine wonder, “If only she knew what we knew now.” And of course realizing that “it wouldn’t matter worth a damn.” Their friendship is such that they may be two halves of one woman – watching their mutual child choose the same fate they did, wondering which fork she’ll decide on when it inevitably turns up.
And of course, the fight. Watching Bancroft and MacLaine physically fight it out only to end in a laughing fit feels incredibly authentic. It’s a dance movie, but it’s not above the physicality of a knock-down, drag out fight.
Other Things to Notice:
This is Mikhail Baryshnikov’s filmic debut. If you’re not familiar with the most handsome male ballet dancer of all time (to me), you may recognize him from his stint on Sex & The City’s final season (where he is also handsome AF).
This was a big Oscar contender, with 11 nominations.
If you’re thinking, man, this movie really is the quintessential women’s picture/ dramatic #chickflick/ dance movie, you’d be on to something. Director Herbert Ross is responsible for Footloose, Steel Magnolias, and The Goodbye Girl, among so many others.
You can watch The Turning Point on Netflix Instant.
If You Like it, Watch:
A romance between two unlikely men, this is another Herbert Ross film, written by rom-com heavyweight Nora Ephron. Steve Martin plays a former mob guy in the witness protection program. Rick Moranis plays the unfortunate FBI agent that’s supposed to protect him. It’s hilarious and genuine. Props to my father for renting this for me on a sick day in fourth grade.
Dance movie! And the most underrated Robert Altman movie, in my opinion. It’s classic Altman – with people talking over each other, and a floating camera that captures as much of the room as it can. And the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago is the perfect setting for it. Featuring a wonderful Neve Campbell (from Scream) doing much of her own dancing, as well as Malcolm McDowell (and James Franco!).
If we’re talking about women being “two-halves” of each other, this is the original thesis statement. Bergman’s psychological thriller is one of the most incredible films ever made, and like The Turning Point, it’s thanks largely to the performances of its two female stars – Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman.
Want in on the February Challenge?
Start with the first post – All That Jazz is a Chick Flick (another dance movie!)
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