Birds of Paradise Review – Entertaining, Beautifully Choregraphed, Captivating

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Birds of Paradise, from Amazon Studios, presents the story of friendship, as two gifted dancers determined to overcome the past, forge a fragile bond to ensure they both succeed in the cutthroat, competitive world of elite dance.

 

The film begins with a fantasy montage of a lush neon enhanced jungle when a dancer peeks through the greenery. Dancing in a modern ballet, we see the masked pixie collapse. The scene cuts to a a picture window, where the audiences understand as the Eiffel Tower rises in the distance that we are in Paris. The dancer, now modern, moves with skill and intensity. She stops when a woman, Celine Durand, played by Caroline Goodall, interrupts the movement with the harshness of her tone.


 

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We find the dancer is entering a competition to be the best dancer with a grand prize of a contract to join the Opéra national de Paris.

The scene cuts to the studio of a prestigious ballet school in Paris, where a talented, ambitious and gifted, and tomboyish, aspiring ballerina, from Virginia, dressed in boy shorts listens as the instructor Madam Brunelle, played by Jacqueline Bisset, berates her in French. She stops as the comments don't hit the intended target, as we find out Virginia/Kate, played by Diane Silvers, does not speak French, and asks in English, "Why are you here?"

As Kate and Marine Durand, played by Kristine Froseth, are warming up school gossip brings the audience up to date on the past. M, and her brother Ollie, were the best dancers in the school until her committed suicide. Kate dropped out which reshuffled the rankings.


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Kate tries to enter into the conversation, but without the language and unaware of the wounds, she makes one too many comments. This results in a brawl, as M pounces on her and with cat like swiftness pummels Kate. The final blow unlocks the rage left behind in the states and with one swing nearly knocks M out.

As circumstances have it, Kate, and M, who are polar opposites, are roommates, which adds to the tension. We soon find out that M, is the daughter of the American Ambassador to France, and at this point the suicide of her brother has caused an irreparable chasm between herself and her family, which she exhibits through outrageous behavior. Kate on the other hand is at the school by the good graces of a scholarship, she is desperate to fit in and as the dangerous M draws her into her world.

Soon, the weeks have continued to fly by consumed with the weekly rankings, dance and while confrontational at first, Kate and Marine's relationship evolves into an emotionally charged, competitive union beset by lies, sexual awakening and, ultimately, emotional breakthrough they develop a friendship, an alliance.


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We also see other dancers helping Kate as she confronts her financial struggles and others confront what they consider the challenges that keep them second. As the final five are announced the friendships turn to backstabbing, anything goes, to secure the prize.

Birds of Paradise invites viewers to follow these hopefuls as they battle toward the grand prize. The film provides realistic issues faced in the world of elite dance. Beautifully choregraphed, with intense scenes, the film is captivating from the beginning.  

Birds of Paradise premieres Friday, September 24, 2021, on Amazon Prime. See it.


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Country: USA.

Language: English, French with English Subtitles.

Runtime: 113 minutes.

Director: Sarah Adina Smith.

Writer: Sarah Adina Smith, based on the book "Bright Burning Stars" by A.K. Small.

Cast: Diana Silvers, Kristine Froseth, Jacqueline Bisset, Eva Lomby, Caroline Goodall, Roger Barclay, Nassim Lyes, Stav Strashko, Didier Flamand, Helene Cardona, Gaetan Vermeulen, Alice Dardenne, Solomon Golding, Daniel Carmargo.

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