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Mao's Last Dancer Reviews

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Megan S

Super Reviewer

July 13, 2012
Not a repeat movie by any means. Some of the melodrama seemed over the top and out of place with his relationship with the girl.
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

August 21, 2011
This is one of those must see based-on-a-true-story movies, even if you aren't into ballet. Beautiful. Entertaining. Inspiring.
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

April 29, 2011
Oh my god, this is such a bad, melodramatic movie. I wanted to watch this because I thought it was a documentary, but Mao's Last Dancer couldn't be further from that.
Nicki M

Super Reviewer

October 10, 2010
Enjoyed watching it once, but don't think it is one I will be watching again. Acting is kind of bad, but I guess some of these were cast more for their dancing skills, which are excellent. I found it more interesting in modern day than the flashbacks, but it is okay, I guess. It did seem to be a bit dumbed down for an American audience, (not sure if that is a fair comment or not), but I do watch quite a lot of foreign movies, and this to me seemed a bit lacking.

Super Reviewer

September 4, 2009
The true story was deeply moving film and showed how disciplined a Chinese guy must be in order to become a great dancer.
Li Cunxin is played magnificently by Chi Cao (as an adult) as well as Chengwu Guo (as a teenager). Chi Cao, a highly recognised ballerino in his own right, must receive the bulk of the accolades for what is truly a seamless breakthrough performance by a first time actor. The rest of the cast are also fantastic including Bruce Greenwood who plays the difficult and complex part of a slightly camp Ballet Director who must confront his own values.
Byron B

Super Reviewer

July 5, 2010
Fish out of water tale as Chi Cao playing Li Cunxin finds his way through the culture shock of moving from communist China to capitalist America. He grows up in regimented, propaganda filled, government controlled China in the 1970's. He is trained as a ballet dancer and in the early 1980's he arrives in Texas to dance with the Dallas ballet. Lies are also an important theme of the story.

The ballet segments are beautiful. However the plot seems rushed as so much time is condensed. The most inspiring parts of the story are quiet brief when Li's father tells him a tale about a frog and a toad and when Li's favorite teacher tells him about the archer. I felt like dance was given the focus at the exclusion of dramatic character development at times, but now thinking back on the movie I remember plenty of instances of dramatic conflict that will keep one interested as the movie progresses.
Chihoe H

Super Reviewer

May 1, 2010
"Mao's Last Dancer" chronicles the life of Li Cunxin who grew up during the heyday of China's Cultural Revolution in a poor rural village and was picked to join the Beijing Dance Academy. While in Houston on an exchange, he defected to America, leaving his family and the life he had known behind, and eventually becoming a world-renown ballet dancer. The film got to me and I weeped, as did many people in the theatre. It also elicited plenty of responses from the audience throughout the film due to its depictions of society and politics in 1970s China, and the portrayal of a family torn apart and the perseverance and athleticism in training for ballet. If you plan on watching, prepare to be emotional by the end of it.

Super Reviewer

October 12, 2009
I read all sorts of critics writting about this movie and most of them are concentrated analyzing Li as a person... well, I came to watch a movie and I enjoyed it. That was a smooth movie, with good acting and dancing, nice photography, strong hand directorship (as I'll expect from a movie about Chinese dancer) and a screenplay which was following the book the best possible way.

Super Reviewer

February 10, 2010
How do you distil the journey of a life that takes place over 25 years into a film that's well under two hours?

Mao's Last Dancer is a biopic story of Li Cunxin's journey and his escape from peasant boy in Mao's Cultural Revolution to become a world famous ballet dancer. Under Mao's communist regime Li 's chosen to become a student at the Beijing dance academy. In 1979, Li's picked in a cultural exchange by Houston Ballet's director Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood) to train with them in Texas. In the US, he soon begins to find his niche in the ballet company. He falls for an aspiring dancer Liz (Amanda Schull) and decides to fight for his new-found freedom.

I was told that the film was reduced from 680,000 words to 160,000 words, which could be a paintufl process for the author himself.

Nevertheless, Mao's last Dancer is beautifully shot, particularly in it's dance sequences. Beresford uses a unique blend of live action and slow motion capture shots to fully encapsulate the performances. The ballet scenes are so well choreographed that they add a level of authenticity to the film.

Inasmuch as the dialogue is delivered less convincingly than the pirouettes, it's rather easier to forgive overly earnest acting than it would've been to ignore clumsy dancing, particularly if you fancy going to the cinema to see the ballet.

Those that have read the book may be a little reluctant to see the film, in fear that it will ruin their experience of the book. Maybe yes, maybe not. But I still believe that the film still strikes a chord. There's something deep within Li that makes his story quite compelling...
Noah N

Super Reviewer

September 2, 2011
'Mao's Last Dancer' (2010) is fascinating, beautiful, and a perfect movie to watch if you want your heart to fly.
Robert F

Super Reviewer

October 3, 2009
Efficiently made and thoroughly engrossing.
June 27, 2013
Perhaps this film was a bit culturally insensitive, but I still really enjoyed it. And can we please talk about how handsome Chi Cao (Li) is?
September 27, 2010
rented this with high expectations since it had played so long at the Paris theatre on E58th/5th last year. mildly disappointing and antipropagandaish. basically a feel-good rags to escapist story of a shandong village boy given the chance to blossom (and sow wild oats) in texas. it ends with a pose worthy of a flyer - the type dropped from planes by the thousands :) nonetheless there are some nice snippets of tchaikovsky and stravinsky in there.
September 7, 2011
another winner from the great director bruce beresford, based on a true story this mix of bio-pic and ballet film traces the rise of a chinese boy li cunxin in communist china to his visit to america and his subsequent defection to america ( though in real life li finally settles in austrailia.
July 29, 2010
Fantastic! This movie rivals the Black Swan! I love the story and the ballet was so beautiful! I was crying at the end of the movie.
May 13, 2010
I had very high expectations of this movie and am sad to say that I was let down. Li leaves Communist China and believes that his dancing is supposed to spread their message in America. He is warned about the capitalist society and the dangers of the people and is expected to stand up to them on his own. So he makes the decision to get married and stay in America. Of course the marriage doesn't last and he is banned from ever returning to China or seeing his family. Somehow that is all overlooked when his parents come to see him perform in America and he is suddenly allowed back into China. I had no idea a ballet company in Houston, Texas had that kind of influence.

This isn't actually a bad movie, it just has a lot of flaws and unexplained occurrences. You definitely feel for Li's character and his situation, but the ending -while a happy one - is very unrealistic. And it begs the question - whatever happened to his wife?
October 10, 2010
The story is amazing. The acting was great and the actors portrayed the actual people in the story very well.
August 16, 2013
Eye candy alert! Chi Cao will have your heart racing in a flash :-) This is one of the most gorgeous films I have seen this year. Completely loved it. Joan Chen is as fantastic as ever.
August 3, 2013
"Mao's Last Dancer" follows every possible Hollywood formula that it eventually gets tiring. The story is about a ballet dancer who grew up on a small farm in communist China and was chosen to be trained as a ballet dancer. When he grows up, he is sent to the United States for a short amount of time. There, he falls in love and refuses to leave. I just wish the story did not overload on cheesiness and melodrama as if it needed it to survive. Mao's life in communist China was fairly bias free but swayed to become one-sided sometimes. I enjoyed seeing someone strive for perfection and do anything to achieve it. That part is truly inspiring and makes Mao a very likable character. After that, it was all once sided and typical Hollywood melodrama. I never fell for the relationship between Mao and the forgettable ballet dancer. The dance scenes are however sure to entertain since they were truly miraculous. The differences between the US and China are clearly highlighted and sometimes funny. The acting was decent, but it was nothing exceptional nor horrible. Some scenes are very powerful like the one where Mao is imprisoned in the Chinese Embassy while his lawyer is held down by security. The direction by Beresford is what is so wrong for the film which develops the hints of cheesiness found in the script."Mao's Last Dancer" is every bit as inspiring as it is cheesy and bland yet it is filled with some terrific dance routines.
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