The Turning Point (1977)
The Turning Point (1977)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.

Release Date: November 18th, 1977 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Herbert Ross Actors: Shirley MacLaine, Anne Bancroft, Tom Skerritt, Leslie Browne, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Martha Scott, Antoinette Sibley

 


 

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n Oklahoma City, flustered Deedee Rodgers (Shirley MacLaine) attempts to get her nonchalant husband Wayne (Tom Skerritt) and their three children, Emilia (Leslie Browne), Janina (Lisa Lucas), and Ethan (Phillip Saunders), off to a performance by the American Ballet Company. The event is bittersweet, as Deedee once worked with the troupe, but she sacrificed a career for a family. Her friend and rival at the time, Emma Jacklin (Anne Bancroft), remains with the group, presenting yet another opportunity for resurging feelings of loss for an alternate life.

“I don’t want them to ever leave! I want to go with them! I miss them!” At an afterparty at Deedee’s house, fueled by a bit too much wine, the former ballerina immerses herself in the revelry of the choreographers, artistic director, stage manager, and dancers, reminiscing about what could have been. Deedee still holds resentment toward Emma, who took the spotlight away when Deedee got pregnant. And when Adelaide (Martha Scott), the American Ballet Company’s owner, tries to recruit Emilia for rehearsals in New York (at the Carnegie Recital Hall), Deedee gets a funny feeling about seeing her daughter follow the very path that she abandoned so many years ago.

As Deedee loiters around the stage, and Emma realizes that her star power has waned with her increasing age, the film meanders on unstimulating conversations and interactions about the unfairness of getting older, the pleasure of performing and the dazzling sensation of being on the stage, and reiterations about the sacrifices made to stay with the company. Part of the problem with “The Turning Point” is that it’s a quiet drama with little in the way of mesmerizing ups and downs. And plenty of montages involving techniques, poises, and continuous pirouettes, along with a few awkward screen wipes and fades (plus one clever series of cuts using uninterrupted dialogue), transition nearly every scene; the editing all throughout could have used some major revisions.

Of course, there are also sequences in which the actual dancers (the non-actors) execute their routines, strikingly and gracefully – yet these moments are surely most impressive only to viewers interested in the subject (for everyone else, these minutes tend to stretch out the running time). Innumerable scenes of Deedee and Emma holding back tears as they stare at youthful ballerinas doing all the moves, as if effortlessly, that they can no longer muster, additionally bog down the pacing. Eventually, a love story between Emilia and lead male dancer Yuri Kopeikine (Mikhail Baryshnikov) blossoms, though it’s predictable and uninspired (these two are professional dancers rather than actors, though they play shades of themselves, which still feel genuine).

More moving is Emma refusing to be jealous or sorry or unfulfilled with her choices, going so far as to help Emilia when her own decisions are considerably more questionable. MacLaine’s character is the one to embody the feelings of regret and envy, which give the veteran actress opportunities for a few show-stopping, emotional scenes. By the end, it’s apparent that the film belongs to MacLaine and Bancroft, feuding and fighting over the lives they’ve led, and not to the snippets of operatic, balletic numbers (or even the lengthier pas de deux finale). But the conflicts and melodrama, in general, are too straightforward and anticipated to have an impact beyond the closing credits; it’s a superbly-acted yet tragically small picture.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10