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Featured DVD Review: B-Girl

January 27th, 2010

B-Girl - Buy from Amazon

B-Girl is writer / director Emily Dell's feature-length debut and it is based on a short film of the same name that she made in 2004, which also starred Jules Urich. I am a neophyte when it comes to Breaking, but I have seen a lot of movies about athletic competitions in general, and dancing in particular. So this movie has two obstacles to overcome: my lack of knowledge of breaking and my over-familiarity with dance movie clichés. Will it be able to stand out? If not, will it at least be able to entertain?

The film stars Jules "Lady Jules" Urich as Angel, a young lady from Brooklyn who is heavily into the dancing scene. However, while out one night, a jealous ex-boyfriend attacks her and her friend, Rosie. She is badly injured and sent to the hospital, but Rosie is not as lucky. After that, her mom takes her to Los Angeles to live with her grandmother in order to get a fresh start. Angel, on the other hand, isn't interested in a fresh start and just wants to get back to Brooklyn, even though the man who stabbed her and killed her friend is still at large and she is still dealing with the emotional scars. Her life in Los Angeles isn't great, partially because her relationship with her mother is rather rocky, just as her mother's relationship with her grandmother is rather rocky. But also because she doesn't even try to start a new life in Los Angeles, that is until she meets Carlos and he introduces her to a group of breakers who need a sixth member to compete in a dance competition. Their personalities clash, but Carlos convinces Angel to stick around, which allows a romance to bloom. This romance may not grow, as there are secrets from Carlos's past that could keep them apart.

A lot of dance movies have been released in recent years, mostly focusing on urban dancing of some kind. There have been so many of these films, that they have developed their own genre clichés. This film has a lot of them, including the "Dance being used to escape the violence of the streets" cliché, as well as more general clichés like the training montage and of course the big dance competition. (While dancing can be very cinematic, especially highly athletic dancing like this, it isn't very dramatically compelling, so a competition is almost mandatory to move the plot along. In this case, the dance competition is talked about as a major deal, but in the end just sort of happens and I don't think it matters who wins.) For the most part, these "borrowed moments" were fine within the confines of the genre. There was an exception with a scene where Angel and Carlos compare battle scars, which felt a little too directly borrowed. (I've seen the scene in a number of movies, but the source usually comes down to Jaws.)

If you've seen many of these films, there won't be much here that surprises you. But if you are a fan of breaking, then there's plenty of that here for you.

Extras on the DVD are surprisingly strong, starting with just over four minutes of outtakes and seven minutes of audition tapes for the dancers. The Battle is a nearly six-minute long featurette with the choreographer talking about how they set up the final dance competition and used it to showcase what the dancers could do. Speaking of the dancers, the biggest of the special features are the Dancer Profiles. There are five of them, including one for Wesley Jonathan, who's an actor rather than a dancer. Each profile is from three to seven minutes long and includes interview clips intermixed with clips of their dancing. In total, there are more than 40 minutes of special features, which is a lot more than most Indie releases like this have.

The Verdict

My knowledge of Breaking, or to be more accurate, my lack of knowledge of Breaking might be a limiting factor here. After all, in the big competition in the end I couldn't tell you which side should have won. It would be like watching a movie about football and not knowing how many points a touchdown is worth compared to a field goal and wondering why one team won 14 to 12 despite the other team scoring twice as many times. I can tell that the dancers in B-Girl are very athletic and they are impressive to watch. I can also tell they are the main draw for the movie, perhaps the only draw for the movie. That said, if you are a fan of the genre, there are enough extras on the DVD that it is worth picking up over just renting.

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