Actors: Sarah Hay, Sascha Radetsky, Ethan Stiefel, Emily Tyra
Format: Anamorphic, NTSC, Widescreen
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 2
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Run Time: 482 minutes
First, let me start by saying that I became easily addicted to “Flesh and Bone,” despite my initial reservations and various complaints with the overall product. Even when I found myself irritated by story decisions made, it had little to no effect on my desire to continue watching, suggesting that they were doing something right. I will even say that “Flesh and Bone” has increased by appreciation of ballet, though not as much as my desire to see this world of professional dancing portrayed on film or television without the inclusion of sexual deviance. First it was mental instability and masturbation-laden Black Swan and now we are given the strip clubs and incest of “Flesh and Bone.” And if this is your only knowledge of ballet, you would have to assume all of the directors use their power to sexually harass their ambitious company members.
Some of this must come from the expectations of creating a series on a cable station like Starz, which seems to encourage explicitness merely because of being able to include it in the programming. Showtime and HBO have fallen into this pattern as well, with the latter making news this past year with the extreme nudity actors were forced to agree to in the filming of their upcoming series, “Westworld.” The film this series is based on includes no nudity. While I’m not asking for the sexual prudence of Center Stage, “Flesh and Bone” includes more scenes of nudity than dancing, unless you count stripping as dancing. What makes this even more disappointing is the magnificence of the ballet scenes which are included.
Removing the melodrama of where she came from and what she’s running from, “Flesh and Bone” is mostly about the rise to fame for a young ballet dancer named Claire (newcomer Sarah Hay) in her first year with a prestigious company in
brutality of the ballet world is first apparent in the damage the dancers do to
their own bodies in the name of perfection, whether it be the loss of a toenail
or forced starvation, but shifts to psychological torture as the season
continues. Some of this is merely seen as part of the business, while some of
the seedier sides of the narrative seem more outlandish, again servicing the
need to sexualize as many scenes as possible. New York City
While “Flesh and Bones” gets tripped up in storylines involving leading dancers sidelining as strippers or being forced to prostitute themselves to investors, redemption nearly always comes in the form of actual ballet. This is where the storyline remains grounded without losing any of the desired edginess, essentially playing out like the dancer’s version of Whiplash under the tyranny of Artistic Director Paul Grayson (Ben Daniels). While Daniels never comes anywhere close to the performance given by J.K. Simmons, it is clear that the writers intended for his role to serve the same purpose.
Although I often found myself grimacing at the inconsistency and overall theatricality of Daniels’ performance, I was actually quite impressed with the acting in “Flesh and Bone,” especially considering most of the cast is made up by professional dancers rather than actors. Hays is especially solid, considering this is her first role as an actor, though the writing of her character seems to mistaken mystery for depth, providing little satisfaction beyond revelations about the big secrets from her past and misdirection concerning her sexuality. Something isn’t quite right when you get to the end of a series without ever feeling as though you understood the protagonist. While it makes sense for someone who has been through what she has to retreat into an internal world, it may have been wiser to give Claire at least a few more opportunities to reveal something more than her breasts to the viewers.
This started out as a regular series, but was switched to a limited series when a renewal was looking unlikely. This is somewhat unfortunate, because I would have liked to see where this show could go with the willingness to shed some of the pulp. Or maybe I just want a ballet show that’s just about ballet, not the sexualization of every female character. All eight hour-long episodes “Flesh and Bone” are included on two Blu-ray discs, along with the exclusive featurette in the special features.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 6/10