• PG, 1 hr. 59 min.
  • Drama, Romance
  • Directed By:
    Herbert Ross
    In Theaters:
    Nov 14, 1977 Wide
    On DVD:
    Jan 25, 2005
  • Paramount Pictures


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The Turning Point Reviews

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Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

August 30, 2014
"You never know what's coming next, at the turning point!" That Toto song may have come out way after this film, but it's best that I don't reference the Tyron Davis song, because even though it was released back when R&B was good, this film is so white that it's about ballet. Hey, hey, "the turning point", as in a ballerina turn; isn't that hilarious? This film has just got to be a little bit cheesy, because it's directed by the dude who went on to do "Footloose", although maybe that film was a little lacking because Herbert Ross lost a lot of steam after this drama about ballet took foot loosening to the extreme. Well, no I'm sounding no better than this film's title, because as if puns aren't unclever enough by nature, whether this title is trying to be punny or not, there's no making it all that witty, because it sounds so lazy, and it's not even original. The amount of films that have this title almost match the amount of Oscars this film was nominated for, but hey, this particular flick apparently stood out, so it must be more interesting than a drama about a foot. Well, even though it's not just about the literal turning point in a ballet dance, it still deals with ballet, so as adequately engaging as it is, its subject matter, alone, limits intrigue, partly because it's a little too familiar.

There are some relatively refreshing themes to be explored in this film, but on top of following a lot familiar themes regarding legacy in artistry, and certain romantic taboos, this is a very '70s-style melodrama, which hits most all of the predictable stylistic trappings and structural steadiness to storytelling, which is not justified by an especially intriguing story. Potential is there, but it is limited by a fairly minimalist film which largely focuses on chit-chat over real, immediately consequential conflicts whose incorporation is a little too gradual the good of a sense of momentum. I don't know if you can so much blame the narrative concept for the questionable dramatic structure, as much as you can blame Arthur Laurents' script, which gets to be repetitive in its minimalism, maybe even aimless under the wait of somber directorial storytelling that can get bland to the point of being boredom. There's not a whole lot of momentum to this film, and slowly, but surely, the blandness grows greater, while your investment grows weaker, secured by many a respectable dramatic highlights to punctuate something that thickens with the plot, and further challenges your investment. What thickens is a thinning of depth to this melodrama, kept consistent to one extent or another through superficial pieces of dialogue and explorations of potentially sophisticated subject matter which make it harder and harder to ignore the histrionics behind the meat of this narrative, whose improbability stands firm. It is also firmly challenged by some convincing inspiration to direction and acting, but there's something pretty contrived about a lot of the plot elements, whose formulaic, talky and slow telling further slow down dramatic momentum, until the final product falls as pretty decidedly underwhelming. As a matter of fact, the film may be forgettable, but while it occupies your time, it holds your attention just fine, thanks largely to good looks.

Robert Surtees' cinematography is about as prominent as any strong aspect of the film, with an intense lighting whose consistency throughout the film is problematic in its lack of dynamicity and overt glamorization, but hard to completely criticize, due to its haunting dreaminess, which is most lovely in the context of tasteful visuals. Naturally, the most tasteful imagery of the film is found within the ballet sequences, which stand to be more lavishly directed, as well as more recurrent, for that matter, but are well worth the wait, thanks to gorgeous classical musicality behind beautiful choreography and fluid, technically sharp dancing. As I said, the direction of the dance sequences stand to be more lavish, but Herbert Ross' passion for ballet is still palpable within his intimate directorial presentation, which doesn't need dance sequences to resonate, for although Ross' chilled storytelling all too often leaves one a little too cold, when the subtlety and grace of the material matches than of Ross' direction, it's hard to not be moved. The consequentiality of this melodrama is pretty questionable, but Ross is hearty no matter what, and his moments of matching ambition, and justifying steadiness, with inspiration implement a human depth to the approach of a story that already has enough taste in concept. Formulaic and melodramatic, yet still talky and lacking in conflict, this story is superficial, if not contrived in its depth, but no matter how messily handled, themes regarding the professional and personal conflicts of artists, both fresh-faced and aging, are intriguing, at least for a character study. Justice is done to the human factor of this character-driven melodrama is done most consistently by the cast, which doesn't have much material to work with, but plenty of talent, highlighted by Shirley Maclaine as a woman of sophistication, pride and flaw, and by Anne Bancroft as an aging beauty who fears for herself and the next generation. The performances would be much more memorable if the film was itself juicier, but no matter how much the acting grows stronger, the material grows more faint more quickly, and yet, the engagement value of the film is rarely truly lost, for although this film is thin and flimsy, it carries enough heart to endear and sometimes compel, but only sometimes.

Overall, the film is formulaic in its subject matter and in its telling of an already thin and talky story, made all the more bland by slow pacing and atmospheric cold spells, which gradually thin momentum with the gradual expansion in the superficialities and melodramatics which secure the final product as rather forgettably underwhelming, but through lovely cinematography, excellent ballet sequences, tasteful direction, intriguing subject matter, and solid performances, Herbert Ross' "The Turning Point" stands as a fair, if faulty study on the personal and professional lives of ballet dancers.

2.5/5 - Fair
June 5, 2014
My Favorite Film Is 1941's Citizen Kane.
March 9, 2014
11 nominations and one went to Baryshnikov, too. He dances in the movie. The movie won 0 Oscars. Baryshnikov dances in it.
July 29, 2013
11 Oscar Nominations........No wins. The performances in this film are breathtaking but the story is sub par. It really made me miss Anne Bancroft.
March 5, 2013
Wonderful performances from Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft and fantastic dancing by Lesley Browne and Mikhail Baryshnikov in this exploration of career versus family.
September 21, 2012
Not aging terribly well, with an overdramatized storyline, it remains an interesting case study of a modern woman's struggle.

Super Reviewer

July 21, 2012
A former ballet dancer's daughter moves to New York to star in a big-time ballet company, and the move resurfaces old grudges.
I suppose that the highlights of this film are the ballet sequences, which are well-choreographed and visually fun to watch. But these sequences do nothing to advance the story or the film's characters; they divert the film's focus. Deedee, played by Shirley MacLaine, is the center of the film's main conflict, and Deedee must reconcile her choice - to settle down and have a family rather than compete against Emma, played by Anne Bancroft, for professional success. Despite scenes in which Deedee looks on enviously as her daughter achieves the success she never did, this conflict just sits in the background, and there aren't many moments in which we see Deedee working to resolve the conflict. The affair subplot is lame and poorly presented, and the final fight between Emma and Deedee resolves like a bad Lifetime movie - illogical, maudlin, and wracked with a bond between women that nobody could understand or believe.
Overall, if you like ballet, skip the poor excuse for a plot between the dance scenes.
March 11, 2012
A nice flick~amazing Mikail...
August 7, 2011
This just doesn't look like a solid film.
Lady D

Super Reviewer

July 22, 2007
Bought but not yet watched
February 19, 2011
Herbert Ross really wasn't much of a director, was he? (Apart from [i]The Seven-Per-Cent Solution[/i], which is all sorts of awesome). This is about as flat-footed as you can get, especially for a film about ballet. What surprises me most is the sequences where Yuri seduces Emilia, because that's pretty good, nice and atmospheric with some arresting visuals. Anne Bancroft almost saves the film though - she really was terrific. Shirley MacLaine is good too, but I don't think much of the rest of the cast (apart from a wonderfully sleazy Anthony Zerbe).

Super Reviewer

September 6, 2010
A boring, talky, and slow movie about dancers. There are some good actors in the movie, but overall it's boring.
November 15, 2010
On seeing this movie again after the 33 years since it was released, I found myself taking issue with several of the plot points. Now that I'm near the age of the main characters, with a grown daughter myself, the whole idea of Shirley McLaine still blaming her old friend after 20 years for advising her NOT to have an abortion struck me as ludicrous. We are asked to believe that the Anne Bancroft character selfishly advised Shirley McLaine to bear her child so that Shirley would be forced to give up her dancing career. In the late 50's, when the baby would have been born, abortion was illegal and dangerous. Yet we're supposed to accept that if Anne Bancroft had been a GOOD friend, she would have said, "Sure, honey, I know a guy who's good with a coathanger. You'll be dancing again in a week!" And we're supposed to agree that Shirley is not responsible for the decision she made, it was her conniving friend's responsibility for steering her in a direction she wasn't sure she wanted to take. Really. Moreover, Shirley never tempers her jealous rants by acknowledging that she got a beautiful, talented daughter as a result. Imagine if the character of Emilia walked in while Shirley was basically saying she wished that Emilia had never been born. None of this behaviour seems very mother-like, even for a worse-than-average mom. So it didn't surprise me that the screenplay was written by a man. Shirley also fails in the character department when, given the first opportunity away from her husband, she leaps into bed with an old flame who flirts with her. There is no remorse, no real recognition of how she may have damaged her relationship with her daughter (much less her husband). Instead, she is merely upset that her daughter is angry and doesn't want to speak to her. Her character is unrelentingly selfish and narcissistic.

Putting these issues aside, there are some very likable things about this film. Mikhail Baryshnikov is stunningly attractive and breathtakingly athletic. It is dazzling to watch him. The basic premise of the film is sound, if a little predictable, and if the whole abortion idea had been replaced with something more plausible, it might have achieved the subtlety it needed to be a great movie.
April 12, 2010
*** (out of four)

A nicely acted and well-made drama that might be a little dull at times, but overall offers some nicely drawn characters.

Years ago Deedee, played by Shirley MacLaine, gave up her dream to become a ballerina in New York City for a life as a mother and teacher in Oklahoma. Her friend, Emma (Anne Bancroft) sticks with and becomes a dancing legend. Years later Deedee's daughter, Emilia, has decided to pursue a ballet dancing career. Emma and Deedee are reunited in New York as Emilia tries to make it.

The dancing segments are beautiully constructed and MacLaine and Bancroft are excellent. The story is good, but lacks momentum.
October 1, 2009
The character development and interaction is excellent, both Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft are wonderful. If you do not appreciate ballet, it may be tough getting through though. Leslie Browne is such an arrogant snot though, I did not like her character or her performance.
August 15, 2009
Could have been much better.
April 7, 2009
Terrific Ballet Movie! Plus Killer Cast! Great Drama!
March 25, 2009
Good ballet dancing. But I just don't care.
November 27, 2008
really wana see this
November 23, 2008
though it gets in its own way at times, this lyrical and deeply film shows the change in a relationship between two friends who were once rivals in an american ballet company. this film helped to make a houselhold name of baryshnikov and showed the world that male dancers could be as straight as they could be gay.
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