The Turning Point (1977)
Picture: B Sound:
Extras: B- Film: C
The Turning Point (1977) shares an infamous record with The
Color Purple (1985): Both films received 11 Academy Award nominations in
their respective year and won none. But
while The Color Purple is one of Steven Spielberg's better films and
deserved to win something, I'm afraid I can see why The Turning Point
was shutout after recently viewing it for the first time after all these years
-- it's one of several older Fox titles that Anchor Bay has acquired the rights
to release on DVD.
Turns out the reason I never went out of my way to see The
Turning Point is the reason I didn't like it very much: Namely, it's a
glorified made-for-Lifetime-cable movie.
Surely, there were much better films in 1977 that deserved such
acclaim. William Friedkin's Sorcerer
and James Goldstone's Rollercoaster are two vastly underrated '77 films
that immediately come to mind.
Directed by the late Herbert Ross (The Last of Sheila, The
Sunshine Boys, The Goodbye Girl), The Turning Point tells the
story of two ballerinas whose lives went in different directions. When they were young women, Deedee (Shirley
MacLaine) and Emma (Anne Bancroft) were both up for the lead role in a
prestigious ballet. Deedee, however,
had to drop out when she became pregnant, which led to Emma easily getting the
role. That proved to be the
"turning point" in their lives as Deedee went on to become a wife and
mother who now lives in Oklahoma City with her husband (Tom Skerritt) and three
children. Emma, on the other hand, went
on to become the star ballerina of the American Ballet Theatre, but never
married and leads a rather lonely life touring from town to town with the
With both women now in their 40s, The Turning Point opens
with Emma's ballet company coming to Oklahoma City, and Emma and
Deedee coming face to face for the first time in years. Their reunion leads to longtime unspoken
resentments coming to surface and each woman imagining what might have
been had the other woman gotten the part all those years ago. Deedee envies Emma's acclaimed career, while
Emma envies Deedee's familial bonds, especially Deedee's relationship with her
oldest daughter, Emilia (Leslie Browne).
MacLaine and Bancroft are both in top form and the film works best
in their scenes together. However,
director Ross and writer Arthur Laurentis (The Way We Were) spend too
much time on the ballet sequences (which will bore non-fans like
myself) and a contrived subplot about Emilia, who's also an aspiring
ballerina -- fans of ballet will likely be far more forgiving of the film's
shortcomings than I and rate this at least a letter grade higher.
In the supporting cast, Skerritt is given very little to do as
Deedee's husband, a former ballet dancer himself. And Mikhail Baryshnikov made his feature film debut and received
an undeserved Oscar nomination for his role as the company lothario. The strangest bit of casting, though, comes
when frequent heavy Anthony Zerbe (The Omega Man, Licence to Kill) pops
up for a couple scenes as Deedee's former flame. Zerbe's a good actor, but he still looks too creepy to have
anything to do with the fine arts.
The transfer to DVD is adequate with the film presented in 1.85:1
anamorphic widescreen. As with most
films from this era, the sound is mediocre.
This is because even regular analog Dolby theatrical sound (the A-type
2.0 with a monophonic surround) was still new, but Anchor Bay includes the
sound here in Dolby Digital 2.0 instead of the even worse 1.0 configuration, so
that actually helps. The DVD includes
two extras: A "making of" featurette and the theatrical trailer,
which isn't bad for a disc priced this reasonably. Unlike a some companies which will go unnamed, at least
Anchor Bay and Fox are willing to dig up extras for their low-priced catalogue
titles, something that's always appreciated by movie buffs.
- Chuck O'Leary