The Turning Point (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
Nominated for 11 awards.
Nominated for Supporting Actor (Mikhail Baryshnikov), Best Actress (Anne Bancroft), Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), Best Supporting Actress (Leslie Browne), Art Direction (Albert Brenner, Marvin March), Cinematography (Robert Surtees), Directing (Herbert Ross), Film Editing (William Reynolds), Best Picture (Herbert Ross, Arthur Laurents), Sound (Theodore Soderberg, Paul Wells, Douglas O. Williams, Jerry Jost), and Writing–Original (Arthur Laurents).
Watched September 28, 2012.
The Turning Point would today be considered a Lifetime movie, Oscars-style. To have been nominated for eleven Oscars and win none of them has only happened twice in the Academy’s history. To be honest, a few of the nominations seemed a bit excessive–namely the supporting cast. The film was apparently a big hit when it came out, and should certainly be on the favorite list of today’s dancers, but it is another prime example of a film not standing the test of time.
Despite its flaws, this film is very relatable. For anyone who once had a dream, and ended up taking a different path, or outgrew it, the story line will strike a chord with you. It is about a woman named Deedee (Shirley MacLaine) who gave up the opportunity of being a prima ballerina to get married and have a family. One day when her old company comes into town, her oldest daughter is invited to join. Deedee accompanies Emilia (Leslie Browne) to New York, just for the summer, and immediately feels out of place. It is not her time anymore, and it seems the light is dimming on her old friend and rival, Emma (Anne Bancroft), who might just be nearing her last dance.
To see the ins and outs of a dance company is something we are familiar with in films these days, but to see such exquisite dancing, we are not as accustomed. Granted, as the Step Up films certainly highlight their genres very well, The Turning Point does the same with ballet. Its consistency with the story is a bit lacking, but unlike many critics I enjoyed this. I found it more realistic and consistent than, say, a musical. The characters themselves are in fact dancers, and when they practice and perform the dance consumes them, but in their outside lives they are not as likely to break into song and dance.
Considering the fact that neither MacLaine or Bancroft were dancers, they did a very good job assimilating themselves into their environment. Their relationship is strained, almost fake, because of long-harbored resentment toward each other. They both long after the life the other person has and are filled with regrets. The film is preoccupied by the life decision between career and family, which doesn’t give the actors too much range to work with. The climactic confrontation between the two main characters inevitably comes, and after a lot of harsh words and a drink thrown in MacLaine’s face (which was unplanned and thus her reaction is of genuine surprise), turns into a full-out cat fight that was quite hilarious.
Overall, unless you are a lover of dance or a fan of Lifetime movies, I would not recommend this movie for you. However, if you have any appreciation for ballet, I suspect this is already one of your favourite films!