Saturday, November 21, 2009

Every Little Step

"Every Little Step" is a meticulously edited film about perhaps the most languidly written musical ever (I say that last comment not knowing much about Broadway history). It's a meta-meta-physical documentary, probably the most ready-made showcase for showing the process of audition (another thing I profess to know little about). "A Chorus Line" seems to be one-of-a-kind: Michael Bennett recorded a bunch of personal, personal stories and put them together. Perhaps it sounds contrived, and it would be if it were thought up by some playwright. But these moments are real. And to think of the casting: they are the hardest and easiest roles to choose, since while there is a face and a personality that the revival's stars have to match, everyone shares the dream.

"Every Little Step" I believe is concerned more with what you can't see that what you could have. Me, I've never seen "A Chorus Line". That's not hard to believe, though, since I only travel to New York to see a play when it seems like it's going to be actually good. I don't go on whims like I do with movies. I didn't even know what it was about until I saw the trailer for this film. I didn't have high expectations for this film, either. "Every Little Step" is not a powerhouse documentary in the way "Tyson" or "Man on Wire" was, but you can't get to that plateau every time. I was expecting "Valentino: The Last Emperor" or worse from it, and I got something more. It's that same way you watch "American Idol" or something else. A little less personal, but then again, you're given less than two hours to meet many, many actors. The film is set up many times to make it easier to compare your favorites for each part, since this is what I'm always drawn to do. Any devoted viewer of talent competitions knows there are those moments when you find out who should be the victor, or in this case, the actor who gets the part.

In this film, there's only one really great scene, with Jason Tam playing auditioning for a part as a gay actor. You don't see him sing or dance. He only just gives a fantastic performance of a tough monologue, with great precision on each heartbreaking line. It's something you need to see to believe. I mean, there are other good performances given by capable actors (such as Chryssie Whitehead with a magnetism like Sally Hawkins or Deidre, unfairly uncredited by IMDB, who's not the best singer but a very good actress nonetheless), but Tam is phenomenal. The stingy casting directors (very much like your average Simon Cowell, capable of being moved by anything, but by convention "not easily impressed") are reduced to tears. He's so good, so perfect, that he's cast upon the spot. That's too bad, since that's the only time you see him really perform.

Never mind that, though. This is a good, very skillfully edited movie. That doesn't mean it isn't slight. As I said before, this movie is much more about behind-the-scenes than on the line, so you get a rushed montage of celebrity arrivals and small chunks of different numbers. I also had slightly mixed feelings about the flashbacks, as they are a little distracting, but I guess the provide some insight, and they don't spoil the movie. The most interesting subject was Martin Hamlisch, who makes note of all of the little musical bits. It's also interesting to hear the basis of the story, and it's good that the filmmakers got the permission to use it (noted in a title preceding the film). "Every Little Step" is not perfect, but it definitely is a solid movie. I would recommend it to people with any range of "Chorus Line" experience. Look, even I got something out of it. "Tyson" is available on DVD, and that's perhaps a better option, on a slightly higher playing field, but if you've seen that (like me) and are exploring, this is a good one to try. B

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