A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line, the movie, has it leg-warmered feet firmly in the 80s… and not in a good way.

Genre(s): Drama, Musical

Director: Richard Attenborough

Actors: Michael Douglas, Alyson Reed, Terrence Mann, Sharon Brown

Year: 1985

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: USA

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Now, I’ve never seen A Chorus Line in any incarnation. My only familiarity with it is the unavoidable finale song “One” (“… singular sensation! Every little step she takes!” Go on, sing along!). It is one of those musicals that has toured the world and is probably being performed right now on stage somewhere. But, boy oh boy, I sure hope that the stage production is better than this stink-bomb movie.

A Chorus Line, the movie, has it leg-warmered feet firmly in the 80s… and not in a good way. Made in 1985, it seems after-the-fact of its 1970s heyday, and almost comes across as a rip-off of other films that probably ripped IT off to some degree. For instance, I keep thinking how Fame (1980) covered much of the same ground: Young people desperately wanting to make it on Broadway as performers, but who are often crippled by their own pasts.

A Chorus Line‘s schtick is that the entire story, for most practical purposes, takes place on the stage where dozens of dancers are auditioning for a production. As the director Zach (Michael Douglas) starts to whittle down the dancers, he asks them to each tell them something about their lives. They step forward to tell him a story, often in song, sometimes in dance, usually about something traumatic that shaped them (homosexuality, plastic surgery, bad parents, etc.). In the meantime, Zach is trying to avoid Cassie, his ex, who has shown up at the audition because she is down on her luck. She had the zing to be a star, but has basically crawled back to be in a chorus line, aka a supporting player.

Yes, the dancing is great, and if it is to your liking, I’m sure the singing is great. But Richard Attenborough doesn’t seem to know if he is making a movie of a show, or a movie movie. Michael Douglas acts as though he is in a movie. Almost all the other actors, especially those playing those trying for the chorus line, are all acting as though they are on stage. Their overreaching, exaggerated style reaches for the back rows of the theater. But when you are sitting a few feet from your TV, the effect is cringe-worthy.

Apparently I’m not the only one unimpressed with A Chorus Line. Reception for the film was not exactly stellar on its release, and it probably says something that the film sneaks to Blu-ray with not a single extra other than a trailer. This story is probably more of a singular sensation on stage.

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