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Review: Mao's Last Dancer

The red ballet-shoe diaries
By BRETT MICHEL  |  August 18, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars


Bruce Beresford may here be closer to the manipulative Driving Miss Daisy (1989) than to his earlier masterpieces of emotional restraint, Breaker Morant (1980) and Tender Mercies (1983) — but he gets good performances from his cast.

There's Chi Cao, a principal at Birmingham Royal Ballet, in his screen debut; there's Joan Chen (The Last Emperor) as a long-suffering mother. And, especially, there's Bruce Greenwood (The Sweet Hereafter) in a tricky role as Houston Ballet artistic director Ben Stevenson — he has a touch of the ol' Mao in him. Working from Jan (Shine) Sardi's straightforward adaptation of Li Cunxin's autobiography,

Beresford imagines a baldly inspiring tale of the exile's life, from poverty in China to fame and fortune in the US after a dramatic defection in the early '80s. "I dance better here . . . feel more free," says Li. Watching Chi soar through the air, you believe it.

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  Topics: Reviews , Joan Chen, Driving Miss Daisy, Bruce Beresford
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