On May 12, the quintessential dance movie of our generation has its 20th birthday. No, not Black Swan! We’re talking something far better: a sweet, silly, bubbly confection full of actually great dancing that made every girl I knew want to be a ballet dancer: Center Stage.
We both rewatched the movie in honor of the big day — not that we don’t regularly rewatch it anyway — and found ample evidence to justify our predetermined conclusion that yes, this movie still rules.
First, let’s go over what actually happens in this movie in case you don’t have it memorized like we do (in which case, what are you doing? Go watch it! It’s on Netflix, and appears to be free on IMDB TV which I had never even heard of till today!)
“But Just Look at Her”: The Audition Montage
We open with auditions for the American Ballet Academy. Only twelve people will be chosen out of the entire planet! Jody Sawyer has bad feet, according to one of the judges. Take note, because this is going to come up again. And again. And again. But the other judge says, “But just look at her.” Magically, by the end of the audition, she knows she got a spot, to the consternation of her Pokey Midwestern Parents, who mope around looking worried about everything and are not important enough to be given names. Meanwhile, Eva, a young black woman who lives in The Inner City (Boston) and does cool-girl things like go to bars with her friends and smoke, also gets a spot, and seems angry about it for… reasons?
“I’m Jody Sawyer”: Jody Arrives at ABA
Jody arrives in New York City all excited and hopeful, where she meets her new roommates, Eva, who takes the top bunk without asking, leaving Jody to meekly take the bottom, and Maureen, the star pupil who nobody likes (except for everyone who watches this movie). Famous ballet star Cooper Nielson also briefly says hello to her, which Jody promptly brags about to everyone she sees, which is … a) totally what I would do, so who am I to judge? and b) pretty excusable since she’s from like Indiana or something where they don’t have celebrities.
In an inspired casting choice, the director of both the American Ballet Academy and the American Ballet Company is none other than Peter Gallagher, a.k.a. Jonathan. Jody immediately gets negative attention for her Bad Feet. Eva gets negative attention for her Bad Attitude. Maureen is praised to the skies by everyone. We also meet Emily, who has apparently gained weight and is maybe a size 4, which makes her the universal object of pity and scorn; Charlie, a handsome ballet student whose defining characteristic, as we’ll see, is “nicer than Cooper”; Erik, a gay black kid who thinks Charlie is hot; Anna and Sergei, other ballet students; Maureen’s overbearing mom; Juliette Simone, the uptight dance instructor; and Kathleen, a ballet star who recently dumped Cooper Nielson for Jonathan himself.
“Her last name is Cummings”: The Gala
The students are all “voluntold” to work for free at an ABC gala. They watch Cooper and Kathleen dance together, and later, after Cooper has publicly groped Kathleen and kissed her neck for no apparent reason, Jody and her friends overhear Kathleen yelling at him for it. But Cooper calls Jody pretty and winks at her, and she doesn’t seem too concerned by the fact that he’s an adult man who winks at teenagers and kisses his ex-girlfriends’ necks without their permission. Meanwhile, the uptight Maureen meets a handsome young fella named Jim, who’s working as a cater waiter, and he decides to become her stalker because she’s pretty. Lucky for him, he feeds Emily a delicious-looking fruit tart so she gives away Maureen’s last name.
“Margot Fonteyn Didn’t Have Great Feet”: Jonathan Gives Jody The Talk
Jody continues to get heat for her bad feet, while Emily gets heat for her supposed lack of nutrition (while in fact she’s probably the only one getting sufficient nutrition). Jody practices alone at night after everyone else is gone, and her bad feet develop some gruesome blisters, but even this doesn’t help. One day, when Juliette is torturing Jody about her turnous, Eva pitches a fit and tells her not to speak to Jody that way, which just gets Eva kicked out of class and doesn’t help Jody at all. Finally, Jonathan pulls Jody into his office and tells her in his soothingly husky voice that he can’t cast her in the workshop, from what he’s seen, and that “while you’re very pretty, you don’t have the ideal body type.” Ouch.
“Careful With That One, You Break It, You Bought It”: Salsa Night
Eva decides that what Jody really needs is a night of fun! She takes Jody, Erik, Charlie, and Sergei out to a salsa club. Sergei hooks up with an older woman, and Charlie and Jody indulge in some epically cringe-y flirting, such as “You’re sweet, and so is your sweat.” Um. Thanks?
Meanwhile, Maureen finally allows Jim to persuade her to go on a date to a bowling alley with him and his friends. She stares at the pizza for awhile before deciding to go for it, and the next thing you know she’s walking home with Jim and eating an ice cream cone and kissing him! But as soon as they say good night, she makes herself throw up.
The next morning, Maureen is still on her game, but the other five are a hot, hungover, possibly-still-drunk mess: Jody is on the wrong side, Sergei drops Maureen, and Eva cracks jokes about it. Forthwith, the five salsa dancers are sentenced to clean every mirror in the school, but they make the best of it by joking about their big night and having a big sponge fight–while Maureen looks on, totally jealous.
“I Noticed Your Dancing Before I Recognized Your Face”: Jody Goes to Modern Dance Class
Jody takes a break from ballet by going to a modern dance workshop downtown. While there she runs into Cooper Nielson and they ogle each other shamelessly. After which he takes her on his motorcycle (because of course he has a motorcycle) to his giant fancy loft in Brooklyn, where he pays her slinky compliments about her dancing, plies her with wine and finally gets her into bed.
“You Heard Her, They’re For Next Time”: Workshop Casting
The cast lists are announced for the final workshops. Maureen has the lead in one ballet, fellow star pupil Anna has the lead in another, and Jody was cast with Charlie and Erik in a new ballet by Cooper Nielson himself. Eva’s stuck in the corps, and she only lets Erik see how upset she is about it. Juliette tells her when she’s stressed, to go to the barre, where everything will be OK.
Jody thinks that she and Cooper are in love now because they had sex one time, so she is very excited to be in his play. A little too excited. Like she brings him a box of cookies (which he didn’t have on hand when she visited his apartment), and presents them to him with blushes and significant looks. And every time he gets within a foot of her to show her a move, she acts like he’s doing it specifically to show affection. It’s so awkward!
Also awkward is the fact that Cooper’s ballet is about a female ballet dancer who is in a love triangle with her ballet director and another dancer. Cooper is still working through some things, apparently.
Meanwhile, Charlie gets all jealous of Cooper and then starts a very silly dance-off with Cooper to prove his masculinity, except that Cooper, being a professional ballet dancer with a decade of experience on Charlie, wipes the floor with him.
“Sure. Bring Your Mom, Too, OK?”: Erik’s birthday
The gang takes Erik out on a cruise on the Hudson (or is it the East River? Yes, I do live in NYC, but geography is hard) for his birthday. Jody, out of the goodness of her heart, invites Maureen along, and Maureen rather gauchely asks to bring Jim. Maureen spends the entire time throwing up (on purpose, as opposed to Amanda Schull, who according to this oral history was throwing up during filming because she was seasick!). And Charlie asks Jody out like a grown-up. She tells him no because she’s seeing someone, which is… patently untrue. Poor Jody.
“Whatever You Feel, Just Dance It”: Love Triangle!
Jody continues to fail to get the message from Cooper and shows up uninvited to hang out backstage while he dances an intense ballet with Kathleen. He tries everything (short of, you know, using his words) to signal that he’s not into her but she just stands there clapping and making the googly eyes at him, or in Kathleen’s words, looking like “she’s a heartbeat away from tattooing your name on her ass.” So finally he just blows her off by leaving with another woman. Ouch.
Jody then pitches a fit in rehearsal, in front of a rich lady who Cooper’s supposed to be trying to suck up to to get her donations. Charlie, having figured out exactly what was going on (except that I don’t think he ever figures out Cooper wasn’t even Jody’s actual boyfriend), gives Jody a pep talk and tells her to dance what she feels–so finally she returns to rehearsal and gives the dancing her all.
“I am the best goddamn dancer in the American Ballet Academy”: Maureen Falls Apart
Maureen gets in trouble in class for not seeming to enjoy her grueling dance routine enough; and with her mom for having a secret boyfriend. Meanwhile, Eva, stuck in the corps of Jonathan’s ballet, goes to the barre at night to practice the dance, with the informal tutelage of Juliette. Finally, Jim calls Maureen out on throwing up in the middle of the night and she goes ballistic on him. She storms out of his dorm room in the middle of the night, but not before this glorious parting shot: “I am the best goddamn dancer in the American Ballet Academy. Who the hell are you? Nobody.”
Then Erik gets injured during rehearsal (leading Cooper to insist on taking his spot instead of the understudy), and somehow this leads to a completely unseen revelation for Maureen. She shows up in tears back at Jim’s and asks him if he liked her for her, or for her dancing. Then she goes back home and tells Eva and Jody she doesn’t even want the spot that’s basically been set aside for her at ABC already. Jody continues to fret, but Eva has gone all zen, and announces that she’s dancing for herself now.
“You didn’t have the feet. I don’t have the heart”: The workshop!!
The day of the student workshop arrives. Jody is super nervous, and Cooper and Charlie don’t help by giving her competing pep talks. (Cooper’s pep talk comes with a free upgrade: unwanted cheek groping. Go away, Cooper!)
But first, it’s time for Jonathan’s choreographed dance, which is the one Maureen was supposed to be in. If you’ve never seen a movie about the performing arts before in which one person was ambivalent about her success and another was unfairly overlooked, you will be shocked, SHOCKED, to hear that Eva has taken Maureen’s place as the star of the big dance. Everyone is shocked–including, hilariously, Sergei, who manages to dance all the way across the stage towards Eva without noticing that she’s, you know, not Maureen.
Maureen’s mom storms out in a panic and demands an explanation from Maureen. Unfortunately, Maureen’s revelation of being unhappy and bulimic doesn’t actually pacify her terrible mom at all. But Maureen is insistent that a life in ballet for her would be a life full of regret.
Meanwhile, Eva’s dance goes great, and everyone cheers. Yay!
“The Way You Make Me Feel”: Cooper’s Bonkers Dance
Now it’s time for Cooper’s ballet. This thing could have its own thirty-page recap, but I highly encourage you to just watch the damn thing on Youtube, even if you’ve seen it before.
First, a twee dance class (with Charlie as the fake Jonathan, Jody as the fake Kathleen) is interrupted by Charlie’s badass rival zipping onstage in an ACTUAL MOTORCYCLE and carrying Jody off from the middle of practicing with the ballet company she presumably spent her entire life working to get into. Though not before tugging on her white tutu so that it… peels off and reveals a purple outfit underneath. I always forget about this completely unrealistic costume change because there are so many more absurd ones later.
Then, Cooper and Jody simulate sex on stage, like, complete with Jody’s black bra and an awkwardly realistic replica of Cooper’s real-life bed:
Then, we’re back to the twee dance class, only it’s the next morning, and oh whoops, Jody is late and disheveled because she was on a walk of shame. Then for some reason Cooper comes in to start a fistfight with Charlie in the middle of rehearsal.
Then we’re in front of the subway, with Jody in yet another outfit (a gauzy blue dress) and the two boys each trying to dance his way into her heart:
Then… um… Jody is magically in a red tutu with cornrows and doing a sassy dance! Sure! It ends with Jody doing a frantic set of spins that seems to go on forever.
It is all ENTIRELY ridiculous but also amazing. It also gets a standing ovation, which… sure.
“As a boyfriend, you kind of suck”: The Ending
After the show, it’s time for everyone to get called into the room with Jonathan and Juliette and be told whether they are or aren’t offered a spot at the American Ballet Company; also, other ballet companies are there and offering spots right there and then. Everyone gets a spot: Sergei goes to San Francisco; and Charlie and Anna get offered spots at the ABC as well as Eva after a pro forma lecture from Jonathan.
Meanwhile, Jody’s Pokey Midwestern Parents show up. They were very impressed by her dance. Jody says hi to them for about five minutes and then totally ditches them. Cooper congratulates her, tells her he got the rich lady to fund his very own ballet company, and says he wants her to be the star. So she goes into Jonathan and Juliette, tells them she doesn’t want to know if she was going to be offered a spot, and thanks them for turning her into the best dancer she can be, which is a principal in Cooper Nielson’s new ballet company.
Then she goes out to the lobby. She tells Cooper she’s ready to join him, and he goes in for a kiss, but she tells him, “You’re an amazing dancer and a great choreographer, but as a boyfriend? You kind of suck.” Cooper laughs a little as she walks away; whether he’s impressed at her chutzpah for turning down his slimy sex appeal or just amused that she still thinks he was ever her boyfriend, I guess only he could tell you. But Jody doesn’t care; she’s too busy securing a date with Charlie, and then getting flowers from everyone in the lobby.
In the ending montage, we see that everyone’s happy in their new gigs–including Maureen, who’s having a ball on a college campus somewhere. The end!
Notes from Janes:
- Jody’s parents are like super negative. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! She’s only eighteen! She can go to college when she ages out of ballet in like, two years.
- OMG Zoe Saldana! She’s such a baby!
- The montage where they prep their shoes is my absolute favorite montage from this movie. Maybe my favorite montage of all time (and for those of you who read the blog, that’s saying a lot!). I’ve seen multiple Reddit AMAs with ballerinas like this one that cite Center Stage as the most accurate about the minutiae of dancing, probably because of scenes like this.
- I agree with Eric–Charlie is so dreamy.
- Everyone is so much more racist than I remember. Juliet picks on Eva for her hair and outfit, Maureen immediately refers to her “attitude,” and when she performs well, one of the blonde ballerinas says bitterly, “Where did she come from?” Subtle.
- After all these years and countless rewatches, I still have no idea what having “bad feet” means.
- Jody sees Cooper from far away, then “innocently” bumps into the creepy rich lady he’s talking to so she can talk to him. Subtle, Jody.
- Jody’s on fire with the 90s eyebrows and lipliner.
- Ew, Cooper kisses his ex-girlfriend’s neck?? I feel like we’re supposed to hate her for cheating on Cooper, but when she tells him not to “paw at” her, I’m totally cheering.
- Jody’s reaction to Maureen’s stalker boy saying he finally found “natural beauty” in New York is so appropriate.
- Jonathan’s speech to Jody is so unnecessarily brutal, but I keep imagining Sandy Cohen delivering it and then I think, “Hm, maybe this really is for her own good.”
- So wait, when Sandy says that Margot Fonteyn could get away with having bad feet because you “couldn’t take her eyes off of her,” were we supposed to think that the male judge at the beginning who said, “But look at her” was trying to say that she had that quality? Or was she accepted because she’s so pretty? Or both?
- Ack those shots of Jody’s feet are gruesome.
- Where is this NYC salsa club that lets in teenagers? It looks fun.
- Cue a gratuitous close-up of Cooper’s butt. Female gaze!
- Cooper calling out to Jody as he’s getting on his motorbike is such a power move.
- Also a power move: this movie playing not one, but two Mandy Moore songs in the span of ten minutes.
- This sex scene between Jody and Cooper is so long. It’s like the entire length of the Mandy Moore song!
- Jody looks so much like Mandy Moore did in the early aughts, and Mandy Moore is featured so heavily on the soundtrack, I think I spent a few years thinking that Mandy Moore actually played her.
- My partner, who once saw the last thirty minutes of this movie, keeps asking me whether Cooper is a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” I tell him he’s definitely a “bad guy,” and he says, “But he helps her career in the end,” and I yell, “THIS MOVIE IS REALLY NUANCED AND COMPLEX, OKAY!!”
- Oh Jody. Please don’t bring your one night stand cookies. Cringe.
- Ballet makes everything better. Even Cooper and Charlie’s pissing contest is fun to watch when they’re competing over a particularly gnarly dance move.
- (Speaking of that gnarly dance move–it took me SO many watches to realize that Charlie actually does the gnarly dance move at the end!)
- That’s the key to this movie’s success, isn’t it? They were smart enough to cast real ballerinas in several key roles (who are not terrible actors, per se, but are very obviously professional ballerinas) and to show extended irrelevant ballet sequences with unimportant characters, because they know we’re all just here for the dancing.
- Jody asks whether she was stupid to “get involved” with Cooper. Uh, you’re not stupid to have sex with him, but it’s a little uh, misguided to refer to a one-night stand as being “involved.”
- Not to reward Charlie just for being a decent human being, but um, he is such a decent human being. He not only doesn’t make Jody feel badly about Cooper, he actively seeks her out to comfort her and calls Cooper an idiot for not treating her well. Swoon.
- Susan May Pratt’s delivery of the line “Who the hell are you? Nobody” is absolutely savage. I think about it all the time.
- In all seriousness, Maureen might be a little mean to Eric here, but Eric was completely insensitive to her eating disorder. She doesn’t need a lecture, dude! I hope he has a better bedside manner when he’s a doctor.
- I love Peter Gallagher’s barely-contained glee when he “sadly” tells Cooper, “You have to use [underwhelming understudy]. Erik can’t dance.”
- Maureen expresses herself so eloquently to her abusive mother. “[Ballet] mattered more to you than anything mattered to me. So I did it, but I can’t do it anymore.” Is she low-key the best character? [Low-key?! What? She is clearly the best character… idk what you’re talking about! –Nerdy Spice]
- Cooper’s ballet is starting. I’m already excited.
- “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson! All of the music choices are ridiculous, but thrilling.
- Dramatic on-stage wardrobe change #1:
- Ah yes, the awkward ballet sex scene that’s like, 10% ballet and 90% sex. It’s like, “Let’s add a twirl, that will make it seem less like we’re simulating sex on stage.”
- I feel like this scene was genuinely hot when we were kids, though. When I mentioned this movie to an old friend last week, this was immediately the scene she remembered as “an awakening.”
- Dramatic on-stage wardrobe change #2, this time a physically impossible one:
- And those last, epic “I choose me” spins! Everything about this ballet is iconic:
- I love how great a job this movie does of letting the audience know when someone is doing well or badly, even if you know nothing about ballet. Just the way that this final ballet is shot (and, of course, because of those crazy spins), you can just tell that Jody has achieved that Margot Fonteyn “can’t keep your eyes off her” greatness.
- I also love that the last song, instead of being super on-the-nose about the plot of the ballet, just repeats the word “Dance!” a million times. It’s like in Burlesque, when Christina Aguilera could only sing songs with the word “burlesque” in them. (Although, who am I kidding–Burlesque wishes it were Center Stage.)
- They tell them about the ABC positions right after the workshop? They can’t even let them get their flowers first?
- I wish that I had had a chance during my single years to utter the sentence, “As a boyfriend, you kind of suck.” (Even if Cooper was never anything resembling her boyfriend.) Go, Jody!
- While I was making gifs for this post from YouTube videos, everyone in the comments was earnestly, desperately asking, “But did Jody get a spot at ABA??” I never actually really wondered when I was a kid, but I guess a lot of people care about this. It’s the Inception of dance movie endings.
- So wait… do we think Jody was going to get a spot? If Maureen were in the picture, I would say no, but after Eva and Anna, who was left?
- All right, I’m invested in this now. We don’t get an answer, obviously, but it’s worth noting that we don’t see any familiar faces in the ABA rehearsals in the credits. Also, at the beginning, Maureen predicts that she, Anna, and Emily will get the spots, and since poor Emily didn’t make it to the workshop, and there didn’t seem to be any other principals, I’m coming down on the “yay” side.
Notes from Nerdy Spice:
- To sum up, we are told during the audition that this school takes twelve people from the entire planet, yet somehow Jody Sawyer knows she got in five minutes after she finishes auditioning. Just go with it.
- Eva lives in the Big City and smokes and talks about Hooters. It’s … a lot. And by a lot, I mean a lot of awkward racial stereotypes. Although it’s Zoe Saldana, so she manages to be three-dimensional anyway. And a delight to watch, obviously.
- OK I feel like we’re supposed to get that Maureen’s a super-bitch because she doesn’t look absolutely delighted to walk into her dorm room and find some jerk SMOKING in there, but, come on! I wouldn’t be friendly if that happened to me, either. Go outside and smoke your gross cancer stick, Eva. [Yeah, I’m totally on Maureen’s side here. Justice for Maureen. –Janes]
- I want to say this “prepping the ballet shoes” montage is the highlight of the movie, but there are SO MANY HIGHLIGHTS. Still, this is one of the most memorable scenes IMO; I can never get tired of watching it.
- I admit it… despite what a great job Peter Gallagher does in this movie and its rather less illustrious sequel, I just laughed when he walked onscreen. Picturing him as a former ballet dancer is just … funny! According to the oral history that I linked above, he did a ton of research and really took this role seriously (and apparently was very convincing to the real dancers in the movie), so I do feel like an asshole laughing, but… he just does not look like a dancer.
- Maureen gives a hilarious smirk when Jonathan says that not everyone will make it into the ballet. It’s very, “Well, we all know I will, suckas.”
- Wow, it’s… quite an experience to watch this movie where Jody’s teeny size-0 bod being too big is a huge plot point, while being six months pregnant. If anything will make you feel like a whale when you’re waddling for two, it’s a ballet movie.
- Eva arrives late to rehearsal and gets shit for dressing out of uniform and chewing gum. Insert our obligatory we’re-woke-now-that-it’s-2020 note about how much more interesting it would’ve been if the movie had really explored the challenges of being a black woman from a working-class family in a historically white, elitist art form, instead of just doing this slightly lazy Eva-is-a-rebel-and-so-everyone-picks-on-her storyline.
- Also, though… chewing gum during rehearsal? That seems like a giant choking hazard. I guess a bad-ass like Eva wouldn’t worry about it, but… ouch.
- Maureen gets so giggly and expressive when she’s sharing the ballet gossip with everyone. It’s like, she’s clearly actually dying to be friends with people and just kind of bad at it. (As will become clear, Maureen is our favorite.)
- Cooper Nielson is so gross. He just slimes all over Jody as soon as he sees her at the gala, calling her a “beautiful girl” and negging Jonathan for forgetting her name. AND THEN HE KISSES HIS EX-GIRLFRIEND ON THE NECK, like, what?! Gross!
- First of all, I love Jim’s pickup line. He wants to trade a potato for one of Maureen’s tiaras! And use it for state funerals! What a charmer.
- Second of all, I love Jim and don’t have any particular feelings about Generic Nice Love Interest Charlie, yet somehow I can never remember which of them is which when I’m not staring directly at them, and no matter how many times I have seen this movie (and it is a lot, like A LOT), whenever I come across the guy who plays Jim in something else I never have any idea that it’s him, nor can I remember whether it’s him or Charlie. It’s like, they are both very generic, handsome, dark-haired guys and my brain simply can’t file them separately.
- Poor Kathleen tries to set some boundaries with Cooper and he’s like, “What, we’re not friends anymore?” As if there is any universe in which it’s OK to go around kissing your friends on the neck?!
- Jim loses a few charm points with his ridiculous line about how Maureen is the only “true natural beauty” he’s found in New York. Jody’s reaction is to bust out in outright laughter, which… is perfectly appropriate as a response to that remark.
- Training montage! I love a movie with many training montages. This one is a random one where we learn that Eva is still late for everything and Jody still has bad feet.
- I love watching Eva put out her cigarette with the toe of her pointe shoe. It’s just such an unexpected use of a ballet shoe.
- It just occurred to me that it’s kind of sad that Jody didn’t also run out of class to thank Eva for standing up for her. I mean, that would be so outside Jody’s personality, but it would have been sweet. (I just double checked to see whether TWoP also pointed this out in their O.C.-themed recap of this movie. They did not! Sometimes I have original thoughts!)
- Oh, Maureen. Usually I’m on her side, but “I’m just trying to be honest” is like the motto of people who are actually just trying to be jerks.
- Jody’s Clubbing Hairdo is very silly — curly half-back on the top of your head? Huh?
- I do still laugh every time when the Jersey girls laugh in Sergei’s face when he says he’s a ballet dancer.
- You know Maureen’s gotta be hungry because only severe starvation could make that bowling alley pizza look tempting. Yuck.
- OK, in retrospect, the only things we know about Jim are that he is very handsome, he is kind of a stalker, and he feeds her ice cream. And yet still I’m somehow a fan. I guess… two out of three ain’t bad?
- Amanda Schull is not the best actor of the bunch (I’m sure she would freely admit that, since it was her first role) but she’s way outshining the rest with her hangover face. Although it might just be that the hairdresser did a good job and her hair is doing most of the acting.
- I get that Maureen’s mom is a pill, but why is Maureen trying to tell her mom a long, stupid, dirty, and possibly homophobic joke about a mouse fucking an elephant? I guess maybe since she has no other friends she doesn’t have much of a choice, but like… is that the kind of joke you tell your mom?
- I love when Jonathan just grins with his luscious eyebrows at Cooper and goes, “I don’t need to hang onto anything. I got the girl.” Zing! And, true! And, shut up Cooper!
- Why is everyone in this modern dance class, like, groping each other and leaping fully into each other’s arms? Is that the way people say hello in some cultures?
- Jody’s thirsty face when she looks at Cooper’s butt is so funny.
- I like how this date is exactly what an eighteen-year-old girl would think is the ideal start of a great love affair: he pays her a couple compliments in dance class! She rides on the back of his motorcycle! He has an extremely nice apartment! Whereas it is actually the ideal start to a tawdry one-night stand, which is in fact what it is.
- Speaking of dating, a guy I dated once leaned forward during a group viewing of this movie just as Jody fell into Cooper’s slimy embrace and yelled, “Don’t do it Jody! Charlie is so much better for you!” It was possibly my favorite thing he ever did.
- I’m pretty sure my entire generation (at least, of white suburban girls born between 1985 and 1990) is still scarred by the vicarious embarrassment of this scene where Jody brings Cooper cookies. In front of his adult ex-girlfriend who can clearly tell she was a one-night stand! Omg. I cringe and laugh and blush every time I watch it or think about it. And Kathleen is just giving her this “Oh, honey” look, and Jody just keeps going, and then as soon as she leaves Kathleen is like, “They’re for next time!” Everything about it is so embarrassing.
- And yet, of course, it should really be Cooper who’s embarrassed, since a) he slept with an eighteen-year-old and b) was too chickenshit to tell her it was a one-time thing.
- I laughed out loud when Jonathan explained to Eva that this ballet was about “music. A harmony that isn’t of this world.” I can’t help it! No matter how great Peter Gallagher is (and I do genuinely think he is great) when he talks about ballet it makes me laugh.
- Charlie’s face when Cooper explains that his ballet is about a love triangle between a girl, a guy, and the director of her ballet company, is exactly the dry smirky face I would make. Kind of like, “Oh boy, wonder where that idea came from.”
- In the oral history of this movie we learn that Jody and Charlie originally kissed in this scene on the boat, as opposed to Charlie just asking Jody out and calmly accepting her rejection. I feel like that would have upped the tension a bit if they had kissed, but I guess it doesn’t make sense because Jody really thinks Cooper is her boyfriend, the poor dear. But like, there isn’t even any sexual tension in this boat scene–I feel like they could have struck a middle ground there.
- On the other hand, I really enjoy that Cooper completely demolishes Charlie in the pissing contest that Charlie starts over who’s the better dancer, like, obviously the world-famous ballet star wins over the eighteen-year-old who’s still in training? And at the end when he mumbles, “I’ll work on it,” and Cooper grins smugly, “You do that”–hee, it gets me every time.
- Also still scarred from the embarrassment of this scene where Jody shows up at Cooper’s ballet like a loyal girlfriend without having actually been invited. YIKES.
- It’s so cute that Maureen is hanging out and giggling with everyone… She really does want friends!
- Haha, Jim has a Jules and Jim poster above his bed. I love this half-hearted attempt to signal that he is Deep because he Likes French Films without actually developing that in his basic-bro dialogue.
- OK, I know I have said this several times, but I never meant it till now. THIS is the actual highlight of the movie. No question.
- Jody and Charlie are such douches for yelling and giggling about the newspaper in the middle of someone else’s rehearsal. I really hope I’m not supposed to be on their side because I am definitely on Peter Gallagher’s side here.
- Do you kind of blame Cooper for Erik’s injury? I mean, he’s like gossiping with Jonathan about his ballet being the talk of the ballet world instead of watching his dancers rehearse, and that’s when Erik falls down… kinda seems like Cooper was being a bit negligent there.
- OK, no idea who Andre The Understudy is, but his story is the real tragedy of this whole thing. He gets cast as the understudy for the student workshop, so presumably he will be otherwise invisible to all the ballet companies he’s auditioning for; then, when luck goes his way and he actually would be pulled in, the fully-grown, not-a-student-at-all choreographer of the ballet insists on taking the open slot instead of letting the understudy have a chance to shine, because it’s more important for his choreography to get praised than for the students to have a chance to shine, even though it is a student workshop made expressly for that purpose. Cooper is an ass. I mean, we already knew that, but seriously, he’s an ass.
- We see almost nothing of Maureen between her telling Jim she’s the best goddamn dancer in the American Ballet Academy and her showing up to his doorstep in tears, having realized that she doesn’t know who she is without dancing. At first I assumed there was a scene in the middle that explained her reversal that got cut, which would have been a silly choice, because this reversal really doesn’t feel earned in any objective sense, even though Susan May Pratt sells it so hard her storyline remains the most memorable one twenty years later. But then I rewound and realized that Maureen is standing in the background when Eric got hurt. Would it have KILLED the editors to do a one-second closeup of her face so we have some kind of explanation or continuity for the next scene? Sigh.
- It’s very kind of Eva to say that Cooper “dumped” Jody when the entire relationship was essentially taking place in her imagination.
- Another horrifying thing you can never forget is this random double-jointed dancer who can clasp her hands behind her back and then somehow swivel her arms all the way around her shoulders. YIKES.
- Cooper bugs Jody about dancing well, like she doesn’t want to on her own, and then when she essentially declares independence from his bullshit, he senses himself losing his influence over her and creepily strokes her cheek. What a slimeball!
- I also love that Jody kind of blows off Charlie, who also thinks she needs a condescending pep talk, even if his is condescending in a nice way. Go Jody! You can dance without either of them!
- OK, yes it’s cool when everyone is surprised to see Eva dancing, and yes Eva was technically practicing on her own in the studio at night so it’s not like she literally walked on to this role with no practice, but wouldn’t it have made more sense for them to have brought Sergei into the plan, so he and Eva could at least, like, do one runthrough earlier that day?!
- I like that Maureen is waiting out in the lobby for her mom, knowing that her mom will definitely freak out and rush out of the room.
- Side note, Maureen’s mom calling Eva trash without ever having met her is the one time that the movie touches on the subtext that Eva was never going to be welcome in this world, no matter how good her attitude was, because women like Maureen’s mom were always going to assume she was trash.
- Wow, usually these days I watch this movie on my phone. This time I watched the end on a larger screen and … wow. They did not even ATTEMPT to hide the fact that this body double looks nothing like Zoe Saldana. Like full-on face shots of her very-much-not-Zoe-Saldana’s face. So funny! (At first I thought this was kinda racist, like did they think people just wouldn’t notice because both women are black? But TBH, Sergei’s double looks nothing like Sergei either.)
- So as amazing as the end ballet is, and it is amazing, what is ALSO amazing are the reaction shots from Jonathan and Kathleen. I can’t pick my favorite. Is it the eyeroll they both give when Cooper Nielson swans onstage on an actual motorcycle?
Or maybe it’s the awkward look Jonathan gives Kathleen as she stares straight ahead while Cooper and Jody recreate what is presumably supposed to be a sex scene between Cooper and Kathleen:
Or maybe their INCREDIBLY BEGRUDGING mutual agreement to join the standing ovation at the end:
- In the oral history one of the dancers (who didn’t have a speaking role) recalls that the cornrow-like braids (they’re actually more like rolls… I’m not sure if that makes a difference) that magically appear in Jody’s hair in the middle of the dance are problematic. And like, true, I guess? But also, I have to admit I simply never even thought of it because my mind was always too busy being boggled at the notion of Jody’s hair braiding itself into cornrows, or whatever they are, literally in the middle of a spin while onstage. Not to mention the new outfit! And the new red pointe shoes! What?! (Oh, who am I kidding. It’s amazing.)
- So to recap, Cooper takes Jody home for one night and she immediately thinks he’s her boyfriend, and has to be painfully rebuffed several times before figuring out her mistake. THEN, he tells her that he wants her to come to his new company and “be its star,” and without getting any of that in writing or any specific details, Jody preemptively turns down the American Ballet Company to go be a principal in Cooper’s new ballet. A totally legitimate choice assuming she understood him right. But does anyone feel like she should have, like, confirmed that that’s what he was actually saying first? Every time I watch this scene, it makes me nervous for her, even though we know from the ending that he does seem to mean what he said this time, and also we know from Center Stage: On Pointe (which is otherwise mostly a useless waste of two hours of your life) that Jody did in fact go on to “conquer the European dance world.” (And marry Charlie, in case you’re curious.)
- I like to think that Jody immediately regretted not at least knowing whether she was going to be offered a spot at ABC, and just got drunk at the next Ballet Gala and asked Jonathan and got some closure. Janes thinks yes; I think the answer would be no. But I can’t believe Jody could be content never knowing.
- At the end, Jody gets a bouquet made of single flowers from random other women. I guess the moral of the story is that when your pokey Midwestern parents fly to New York to see you dance and you totally blow them off without even thanking them for the flowers, you will still, somehow, get a bouquet?