January 26, 2008

Movie Review: How She Move

Each year seem, and early in the year at that, a new dance-related movie is released to theaters. This year we get two, How She Move and Step Up 2: The Streets. In recent years we have gotten Stomp the Yard, Step Up, You Got Served, and even a documentary in Rize. How She Move is the first to arrive this year, and it offers a slightly different perceived experience than those other films. Perceived because I have not actually seen any of the other dance films. You see, I am not exactly a part of the target demographic. Now I am sure you are asking yourself why I have bothered to spend the time with it. Let me say that it is the trailer. It's that simple. It is true that trailers are designed to draw you in, but I am sure you are savvy enough to be able to tell when a movie is going to be good. Some are sure to get by the wickets, but by and large our trailer-detectors should be in fine working order. This just happened to paint a compelling picture.

The trailer for How She Move had something different to offer than the majority of those other Hollywood productions. There was a sense of honesty and a genuine feeling that the desire existed to push the boundaries of the dance movie. It also had a decidedly refreshing lack of gloss. This is a low-budget affair, populated with relative to complete unknowns, and created by a pair of first timers in director Ian Iqbal Rashid and writer Annmarie Morais. With all of the fresh talent involved, this film had the opportunity of pushing boundaries and working outside the lines that have been placed by previous genre entries. Did they succeed? Yes, no, and maybe a little bit of I don't know. After all, this is my first foray into this particular genre.

Raya Green is a smart high school student who is currently enrolled in an exclusive private school. However, when her junkie older sister unexpectedly dies after spending all of the family's money (including Raya's tuition), she is forced to move back home to attend public school. Despite this roadblock to her plans of going to med-school, Raya has a plan to get back to the private school. She plans on taking a test that will get her a scholarship to get back on track.

Now, despite her plans and her insistence that she has everything under control, she is not welcomed back with open arms in her old neighborhood. Plus there is Bishop, leader of a local Step dance crew that is bound for a big competition in Detroit called Step Monster. Bishop's crew leads to a back up plan should the scholarship test, one that involves getting on that team.

I am sure most of you can see where it is going. When it comes right down to it, this story is not exactly original. If you have seen just one of these "overcoming adversity" type flicks you will probably be able to peg the story beat for beat.

When it comes right down to it, most are going to see this for the dancing, unlike me who was interested in the dancing but was more anxious about the story the trailer was hinting at. Yes, the predictable story. There was something about the trailer tease that made me think this would be halfway decent.

How She Move is an interesting film, and one worth spending a little bit of time with, if that time is in your home with a rented DVD. I cannot truly recommend this as a visit to the theater, no matter how decent it may be.

The performances were fine, the dancing was fine (for the most part), and the look was suitably low budget and indie in nature. The problems lie in Annmarie Morais' screenplay. It felt like there were pages missing. The emotion in the performance and delivery, but it did not look like the whole story was being told. Characters were mere sketches of what they should be, and many of the plot points and surrounding elements do not get much detail. In short, there is a lot of work to be done by the viewer to fill in the holes and guess what the true reality is.

The look of the film is pretty good, although the cinematography left a little to be desired. In particular, the dance scenes could have used a little work. It looked as if they were afraid to show the full dance routines, leading me to believe they were cobbled together from any number of takes. Not normally a problem, but there are many close-up and tight shots that make it impossible to see what they are doing.

Overall. Decent movie. The performances, particularly from newcomer Rutina Wesley as Raya, are very effective even when the story was at its weakest. There is a lot of heartfelt emotion, even if I didn't feel drawn in. It does make an attempt to expand on the idea that dancing is a means to an ends in and of itself into something where dance is another tool to better oneself, propelling one beyond where they are while not forgetting where they came from.

Mildly Recommended.


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