The Turning Point beautifully captures a pain I’ve never otherwise seen expressed on film. Certainly not as vividly.
Occasionally, I’ll miss performing so much that it aches. There is a pull that will simply never go away no matter how far removed you are from your last performance or the decision to step away. There’s always minor emotional rugs pulled out from under you, small sadnesses you have to live with even though you feel no regret over the decision: seeing friends performing but remembering the chemistry you had together, celebrating their growth with vague embarrassment for your less interesting life developments. When you’re off the stage, everything else seems so small compared to those who stayed.
And of course you hear what it means to stay: the loneliness, the broken bodies, the realized dreams that turn on you.
It’s all right there in The Turning Point. From Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft’s lived-in performances to Robert Surtees gauzy cinematography, both sides of that inner conflict is revealed. The risk is that the whole film is too inside baseball, too industry for the non-creatives, even if they have the choreography to help them stay engaged. But for someone such as myself who sometimes has the stage bug bite me out of the blue, the pain was all the more real for never hearing the sentiment expressed so openly on film.
What you’re not told is how isolating it feels, both engaging from the outside and realizing your time is up. As MacLaine is pushed to the fringes of the frame, depicted in ways that reflect her isolation or that reinforce her rose colored glasses. Over the course of the film, the playing field is leveled against Bancroft, transitioning from the frame’s goddess to MacLaine’s equal. It’s as much a battle of the soul as of the body for both, something Herbert Ross’s direction makes into a sensual experience.
But this is all nothing if they don’t capture the beauty of what’s doing the pulling in the first place. The gorgeous dance sequences are more digestible, but you need their stunning clarity to fuel the more introspective yearnings of MacLaine and Bancroft. You luxuriate in those sequences, as fleeting as the rush of performance, rarely long enough to savor as deep as you want to.
The Best Shot hit me at the beginning, the first indicator of the longing it would drudge up…
Once you’re just in the audience, you’re also just one in the many unspecial few. MacLaine courses through the emotions of having just seen her company and friends, and gears up to face them. What’s more isolating than to be just one in the crowd? The shot has a sad, but reserved energy – like the pain you’ve made peace with that nonetheless still resurfaces.
More of Hit Me With Your Best Shot!