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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Arts > The Turning Point (1977)

The Turning Point (1977)


Picture: B     Sound: C     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 company.


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


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