‘Birds of Paradise’ (2021) Movie Reviews

There are a few good ballet films, like ‘The Red Shoes‘ (1948), ‘Billy Elliot‘ & ‘Center Stage‘ (both released in 2000), and, of course, ‘Black Swan‘ (2010), Which probably gave Natalie Portman the role of a lifetime and even won her a Best Actress Oscar.

The last ballet film I saw was Luca Guadagnino’s overblown and pompous 2018 version of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria,” if I remember correctly.

You can watch the ‘Birds of Paradise’ movie on Amazon Prime Video, and it is the latest addition to the ever-growing list of ballet flicks.

The movie depicts Kate Sanders (Diana Silvers), a Virginia native who receives a scholarship to attend a prestigious dance college in Paris, France, directed by Sarah Adina Smith of ‘Buster’s Mal Heart’ renown.

Kate was once a basketball player before embarking on a five-year dance career. And, while she is excellent at what she does in the United States, things are very different in Paris.

Unlike her fellow dancers, Madame Brunelle (Jacqueline Bisset), the academy’s dancing instructor, believes Kate lacks the grace and precision required of a great ballet dancer.

Release date: Friday, Sept. 24
Cast: Diana Silvers, Kristine Froseth, Jacqueline Bisset, Daniel Camargo, Toby Huss
Director-screenwriter: Sarah Adina Smith
IMDB Rating: 6.0/10

Rated R, 1 hour 53 minutes

Kate, on the other hand, is adamant about proving to herself that she is capable of becoming a ballet dancer.

Marine (Kristine Froseth), the wealthy daughter of the American ambassador and a once-promising No. 1 ballet dancer in the institution, has lately lost her twin brother and dance partner, Ollie. She returns to the academy to win the desired award for Ollie.

Her character gets off to a poor start with Kate the first time she is presented. They don’t get along at first, and to make matters worse, and Kate has to sleep in the same room with her.

Birds of Paradise – Official Trailer | Prime Video

The plot follows Kate and Marine as they evolve from adversaries to improbable best friends, even pledging to “win the prize together or not at all” as the film unfolds.

The prize at the question is a contract to perform at the famed Opéra national de Paris.

Sarah Adina Smith has a strong visual sense, based on A.K. Small’s 2019 novel “Bright Burning Stars.”

Or, to put it another way, the film’s alluring and, at times, the bizarre visual aesthetic is stunning.

Kate and Marine are seen in a stylized fever dream going to an underground club named Jungle and engaging in a hallucinogenic dance after consuming worms of some type.

Smith also uses some beautiful camera movements to highlight the smooth flow of the dancers’ ballet performances.

When it comes to ballet dance performances, the choreography is superb, and Ellen Reid’s moody score perfectly suits the film’s tone.

I particularly like how Smith used the typeface gap between the time left and the award over a hot pink background to inject chapter breaks between scenes.

While ‘Birds of Paradise‘ excels in technical achievement, the tale is, unfortunately, a mixed bag.

Watch Birds of Paradise Online
Watch Diana Silvers & Kristine Froseth as Ballerinas Training for ‘Greatness’ in Birds of Paradise Trailer

Smith, who also adapted the screenplay, wastes the opportunity to dive more into Kate and Marine’s connection.

Diana Silvers and Kristine Froseth, two up-and-coming actors best known for their roles in 2019’s “Booksmart” and Netflix’s Sierra Burgess is a Loser” (2018), is well-cast in this picture.

As two opposing persons from different backgrounds, they look fantastic together. And, on the surface, each of them does an excellent job presenting their parts, particularly Froseth’s devious portrayal of Marine.

In terms of the supporting actors, I was most struck by Jacqueline Bisset’s clinical performance as Madame Brunelle.

The issue here is that Smith seems to be trying for a lot of intriguing hints. I was half expecting the picture to follow in the footsteps of Darren Aronofsky’s outstanding drama “Black Swan,” but it lacks the psychological acuity of that film.

There are even rumors that the film would take on a gloomy portrayal of the harsh world of professional ballet dancing, similar to Starz’s 2015 miniseries “Flesh and Bone.”

But, on the other hand, the film largely lacks that required edge. If Smith had been ready to go a step further and not make everything so restricted and traditional, the end result might have been a compelling piece of work.

Smith has already run out of steam by the time ‘Birds of Paradise’ reaches the inevitable ending where the ballet dancers compete for the prize, and he has missed an opportunity to close the picture on a strong note.