Ballet Shoes [retro review]

“We three Fossils vow to put our name in the history books, because it is ours, and ours alone, and nobody can say it’s because of our grandfathers.”

The Scoop: 2007 PG, directed by Sandra Goldbacher and starring Emilia Fox, Emma Watson, and Yasmin Paige

Tagline: N/A

Summary Capsule: Three sisters are determined to put their names in the history books.

Lissa’s Rating: Brace for nostalgia…

Lissa’s Review: I am not a girly-girl, but at the same time, I’m not a total tomboy either. And given the number of princess movies I’ve reviewed, I’m sure that’s not a shock to anyone. So I’m also pretty sure that if you’ve thought about it at all (and you probably haven’t), you’ve figured out I used to do ballet when I was younger. And if you know anything about Ballet Shoes (like, that it was a kid’s book written by Noel Streatfeild), then you can probably guess that I’m going to tell you I was a purple elephant with a pink spotted trunk.

Well, no. But you all knew I was going to say I loved the book.

I have to admit, when I heard they were doing the movie I was a little bit skeptical. Just a little bit, because the rest of me was quite excited. But the book takes place over a good sixteen years, and it’s a lot of… well… nothing goes boom. The book’s not very heavy or full of witty dialogue, the story feels largely introspective in ways, and the girls change a lot physically. It reminds me very much of Little Women. But hey, I liked Little Women well enough as a movie, so I kind of thought I might like this. And I did. Very, very much.

The story is a fairly simple one, focused on three orphans adopted in England sometime before World War II. Through a series of events the girls are eventually sent to a stage training academy, where they learn acting, dance, and music. While the theater elements are important, the overarching theme is the relationships between the sisters, and their love for each other and their pride in themselves. It’s really a very nice book and movie, and I’d recommend either to any young girl without hesitation.

The main reason this little movie is getting any attention at all in America is that Emma Watson (she of Hermione fame) plays the part of Pauline Fossil, the oldest of the three sisters. I really enjoyed Watson’s performance in this – she was exactly how I’d always pictured Pauline. The other two girls (Yasmine Paige as Petrova and Lucy Boynton as Posy) are dead on as well, although I think the girl playing Petrova was prettier than I’d imagined.

There are movies that are so wrapped up in nostalgia that it’s very difficult to review them critically. This is one of those. Sure, the movie itself just came out a few months ago, but I’ve adored the book since I was a little girl. For the most part (aside from the Simpsons going from a happily married older couple to Mr. Simpson, the widower), the movie is exceptionally faithful to the book, so it’s one of those “enjoy the book, enjoy the movie” cases. Well, for me. There are always going to be disgruntled fans in these cases, because everyone forms their own mental pictures and nothing will ever match up to every picture completely.

There were a few disappointments. I love ballet, so frankly, I was hoping to see more dancing. There was very little ballet in this movie – even in Posy’s storyline – so don’t go into it expecting a lot of that sort of thing. I also wasn’t crazy about the Mr. Simpson/Sylvia love interest thing. It seemed a bit tacked on and there to amuse the mothers of all the little girls who were dragging them to this movie. Why must every story have a love interest? Honestly. Oh well.

I mentioned earlier that I would recommend both book and movie to any young girl, and I think I’d like to expound more on that. The thing I like about Ballet Shoes is that it very much encourages young girls to think about their future. Sylvia, the guardian, finds herself in a very poor place because she’s lacking in education, and is determined to see her girls not have to deal with that problem. More than that, it’s not just stage training that’s considered a viable option for the girls. Petrova, the middle child, goes along with the stage training because there’s no other way a child under sixteen can earn money, and she wants to help her family. But her dreams are far less stereotypically feminine; she loves motors and cars, and above all things, airplanes. Now, bear in mind that this book was originally written in 1936, and you can see why I’m cheering. Add to that the family-friendly messages of the book, and, well… it really is a good one.

Sure, if you have a Y-chromosome you’ll probably be bored to tears by this, unless you have a daughter, and then you’ll be very grateful that this isn’t Barbie Mariposa and Her Butterfly Fairy Friends. (I am SO glad I have boys.) But it really is a nice little movie, well done, well acted, and very sweet, and I’m very glad I managed to rent it.

There’s always that one kid staring out at the audience….

Intermission!

  • The black velvet dress was exactly as described in the book, wasn’t it? (Also did a nice job of making Emma Watson look younger than she is.)
  • Winifred was a bit snottier than in the book, wasn’t she?
  • Harry Potter connection – Richard Griffiths (Uncle Matthew and Uncle Vernon) and Gemma Jones (Dr. Jakes and Poppy Pomfrey) are also in both movies.
  • The fuzzy warm feeling throughout the movie? Yeah, I liked it too.
  • Emilia Fox plays the part of Sylvia Brown in this adaptation. Emilia’s mother, Joanna David, played the part of Theo Danes in the 1975 BBC adaptation of the same story.
  • Was originally made for as a English TV-Movie, and aired on English Television in Christmas 2007, but got a theatrical release in the states.

Groovy Quotes

Pauline, Petrova, and Posy: We three Fossils vow to put our name in the history books, because it is ours, and ours alone, and nobody can say it’s because of our grandfathers.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Center Stage
  • Fame!
  • The Princess Diaries
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