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USA 1983
Directed by
Richard Attenborough
113 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

Chorus Line, A

As Irving Berlin famously told us There's No Business Like Show Business and the musical has gone backstage to demonstrate this delightfully, many, many times. A Chorus Line is firmly within this tradition, a celebration of the hard lives and hard times of dedicated dancers who turn up in droves to audition for, as the title indicates, just a place in the chorus line of a Broadway show.  In circular fashion the show was a huge hit on Broadway. This screen adaptation stays more or less close to the original stage version although it uses flashbacks to show us an old romance between the choreographer (Michael Douglas) and one of the hopefuls (Alyson Reed), and replaces some songs.

Although in one sense the film brings home the joys and pain of the dancers, as a musical it is an unsatisfying experience. For anyone who loves the genre for its glitz and frippery, the 80s layered look, complete with pubis-hugging leotards, leg-warmers and head-bands, is more tacky than anything else whilst the choreography by Jeff Hornaday, whose biggest success was Flashdance (1983), is constrained by the aerobic-cum-disco style of the time (the tacked-on finale especially is both lame and lamé). More importantly, the narrow scope of the narrative, a single audition, offers at best only limited cinematic interest whilst the cast were evidently chosen for their dance skills rather than their screen presence or singing ability.

Attenborough, best known for helming biographies of great men, endows the whole shebang with a self-conscious sentimentality that at best will appeal to those who can see themselves in these dancers' shoes.




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