Ever See a Priest Dance?
Fast Forward Directed by Sidney Poitier At the Sack Beacon Hill
START WITH ONE minute of funky music, add five scenes of romance and gently stir in a generous number of dance routines. Next, omit acting, plot line and subtlety. Add violence to taste, Presto. You have concocted Fast Forward, this month's feeble effort at capturing on screen the ambitions and frustrations of those crary, but immensely talented, kids just have to dance. The only prestige that Director Sidney Poitier lends the film is his name in the credits. It becomes obvious, however, that it is not enough merely to import a big name to ensure cinematic success.
The plot of Fast Forward serves only as an adhesive for connecting numerous dance scenes, but it manages to be banal and predictable, though blessedly minimal. A group of eight intrepid high schools kids escapes from the confines of Sandusky, Ohio, where their talent as dancers is neither appreciated nor taken seriously. Dance being, of course, for bidden in Ohio, the kids is forced to rehearse in abandoned warehouses and to run away to New York without telling their parents. New York, that mecca of artistic opportunity, proves to be tougher than this bunch bargained for. Braving myriad evils, from muggers to threatening rival dance groups, from discouraging agents to hordes of mohawked, leather-clad punks, the Adventurous Eight pirouette their way to stardom, shedding only a few poignant tears of disappointment along the way.
PART OF THE PROBLEM with the movie is that it is fantastically realistic. After all suspension of disbelief can last just so long. Is it really possible that eight penniless teenagers can clean, paint, and redecorate, let alone locate, an apartment in New York within hours of arriving in the city? Will the parents of these wayward youths really remain quietly buried in the suburban depths of Sandusky, Ohio, while their children cavort across the streets of New York missing school, cheer leading practice and Sunday night dinner? And, to get right to the point, how much energy and ambition can we take? At every daunting obstacle these wonder kids hesitate picturesquely for a moment or two and then leap ahead and conquer. Hooray for the American success story. Hard work (and long legs) will get you everywhere.
Well, if plot is not the strong point of Fast Forward dancing must be. At first this does seem to be the case. While the eight actors deliver their lines with unconvincing, amateurish sincerity, their dancing is powerful, professional and precise. Unfortunately, choreographer Rich Atwell gives these dancers little with which to work. After two routines the steps become monotonously similar. The energy of each dance stays at full blast making high kicks, split leaps and multiple turns seem ordinary. The art of dancing is lost in Atwell's desire to exploit the dazzling tricks of the trade.
THE SIX WOMEN of the group blur together in this Jazzy frenzy, each one more than competent," yet individually indistinguishable from the others. This lack of characterization is just as much the fault of the script as it as it is of the choreography. The only two actors with distinct roles are the leaders of the group Scott Clough) and M.chact (Don Franklin). Clough responsibility seems to be as the movie's romantic interest. This he fulfills by coasting through on its good looks. Franklin, the team's creative choreographic genius, is the most thrilling dancer of the movie. Tall and lean-limbed, he dances with clarity and aplomb. Franklin has a sense of space. Suspending sculptured patterns in the air, he performs rather than merely executing the steps.
Fast Forward takes itself too seriously. Instead of acknowledging the plot as an excuse for the dancing, the film concentrates with annoying fervor on the values of hard work, group loyalty and persistence. Ironically, the most successful parts of the movie are those that relax and let the actors enjoy themselves that abandon this pseudo serious exploration of the challenges of the artistic life. Most amusing and most charming is a scene in which the six women go to a bar to drown their sorrows. No longer are they super whiz performing stars, but silly kids with the usual gripes and the usual propensity to drink just one too many.
The playful quality of this scene, however, is atypical of the film. Most everything else, from cinematography to dialogue is heavy-handed. While the camera shows a full front view of all the action, the script is equally uninspired. Everything is straight exposition: the writers seem to have forgotten the value of innuendo. This lacks of subtlety engenders a lack of surprise and coarseness in the film. One emerges from the theater benumbed by the blatancy of the script and by the ordeal of having sat through what has seemed like a thousand hours of Solid Gold.