June 2, 2023
“Rise,” from French filmmaker Cédric Klapisch, is not blazingly original by any stretch, and any moviegoer paying even the slightest amount can predict most of the plot's moves. And yet, something is to be said about presenting a familiar narrative in a straightforward and undeniably entertaining manner. That is what Klapisch has done here, aided in no small part by the engaging central performance by Marion Barbeau, a lead dancer for the Paris Opera ballet making a striking dramatic debut....
the most winning element of “Rise” by far is the performance by Barbeau as Elise. Most of the time, when someone is trying to make a narrative film about serious dancers, they have to choose one of two options—cast a straight dramatic performer and either bring in real dancers as doubles or hope that they can be trained well enough to be convincing or cast a real dancer and hope that they can handle dialogue as deftly as their Arabesques. In casting Barbeau, Klapisch has hit the jackpot. Obviously, she's more than convincing in the dance scenes, especially in the ones where she finds herself trying to retrain her body and mind to the approach favored by Shechter and his troupe. However, Barbeau is just as good in the scenes in which she isn’t dancing—she shows a lot of charm and charisma throughout and demonstrates none of the stiffness or self-consciousness that sometimes occurs when a star in one particular art form is suddenly placed in front of a movie camera. One could argue that she is essentially just playing herself, but that would short-change her efforts here. Yes, her role here is certainly informed by her day job (especially in the scenes where she deals with her injury and its aftermath). Still, there's a lot more to it than that. This is a complete bit of acting on her part that helps transform what could have been a mere trifle into something surprisingly compelling.
Obviously, those interested in dance, especially ballet, will want to check out “Rise”—perhaps they can make it a double feature with Robert Altman’s equally incisive “The Company.” But even if your exposure to dance is limited to occasionally coming across “The Red Shoes” or “Flashdance” on cable, there's still a lot to like here.