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Reviews for April 26th, 2019

The White Crow

Directed by Ralph Fiennes

      During the 1950s, Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko), a ballet dancer, trains at the Vaganova Academy in the Soviet Union under his ballet instructor, Alexander Ivanovich Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes). He meets and romances, Clara Saint (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a woman who recently lost her boyfriend. While enjoying his life in the Soviet Union, Nureyev is under surveillance by the KGB and puts himself at risk when he tries to defect to Paris.

      The White Crow suffers from a dull screenplay by David Hare and performances that range from very wooden to mediocre by almost everyone onscreen. The set and costume designs look authentic, but those qualities aren't good enough to compensate for such a lethargic and pedestrian biopic. Even the cinematography isn't anything to write home about, and the scenes of Nureyev dancing aren't compelling even for those with a passing interest in ballet. Despite a plot that promises thrills with the KGB going after Nureyev, there's not a single thrilling scene to be found here. Moreover, Nureyev and Clara have very little chemistry together, so the film doesn't even work as a romance. Black-and-white flashbacks to Nureyev's wartime experiences feel clunky and awkward rather than powerful or haunting. Worst of all, you never really learn what makes Nureyev so great as a ballet dancer nor do you get to know him enough as a human being.

      Sometimes good acting can save an anemic film by enlivening it and rising above the screenplay, but in the case of The White Crow, none of the actors manage to bring the film to life, not even the usually-reliable Ralph Fiennes. Oleg Ivenko, an untrained actor, excels at dancing while lacking the acting chops and charisma that's required to carry the lead role. Adèle Exarchopoulos was much better in Blue is the Warmest Color; here, her performance falls flat which is mostly likely because of the underwhelming and shallow screenplay. To top it all off, the running time of 2 hours and 7 minutes feels more like 4 hours.

Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Opens at Landmark at 57 West and Angelika Film Center.
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