Leap!: 2016 PG
This review is dedicated to my daughter Madison Elizabeth. She and her little cousin Ella begged me to watch this movie with them over the holidays and I begrudgingly agreed. To my surprise, this ballerina movie was a standing ovation with great life lessons for every child to learn. So this goes out to my favorite Ballerinas, whose destiny could take them to the Paris Opera one day as well. Never stop believing in yourself, Never stop dreaming big, and Always perform with passion.
Felicie (Elle Fanning) and Victor (Dane DeHaan) are young orphans in 19th Century France with dreams of making it big. They are best friends who dream of a better life outside the confines of their dreary orphanage in rural Brittany. Felicie is a talented dancer who never has had formal training, but aspires to be on the main stage of the Paris Opera one day. Victor is a brash, unkempt young inventor with dreams of using his brain power to invent and build great things. They decide to escape the orphanage and head to Paris to follow their dreams.
Felicie meets a standoffish house cleaner named Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen). She works for the rich and villainous Regine Le Haut (Julie Khaner). Odette gets Felicie a job helping her sweep and clean the very Opera House that she desperately wants to dance in. Victor becomes an office boy to Gustave Eiffel (Yes the one from the Tower), and dreams to be his most trusted apprectice.
One day Felicie spies Le Haut’s daughter Camille (Maddie Ziegler) practicing ballet in the courtyard. She expresses her dreams of one day dancing at the great Paris Opera House. Camille proceeds to scoff and make fun of Felicie. She grabs her only possession left to her from her mother (a ballet music box) and tosses it out the window severely damaging it. Felicie proceeds to take the damaged music box to Victor for repair. On her way, she intercepts a letter to Camille admitting her to the prestigious school of Paris Opera Ballet.
In true “payback” manner, Felicie hides the letter, assumes Camille’s identity to get into the celebrated ballet school and pursues her dream. At the school, the choreographer Merante (Terrence Scammell) announces that only one dancer from class will dance the part of Clara in the upcoming Nutcracker. Felicie begins to work with Odette who was once an accomplished dancer herself before a dreadful injury ended her career.
Every day another girl is eliminated from consideration for the role of Clara. Felicie barely makes it through every day, but gets better and stronger with every practice session with Odette. The day before the announcement of the role of Clara, Felicie’s lie is found out and Camille is asked to join the competition. Merante recognizes the talent of both dancers and allows both girls to challenge each other for the part of Clara.
The night before the last audition, Felicie skips practice with Odette and goes on a date with another boy from the school. Victor becomes jealous and fights Felicie’s date. These late night antics make Felicie late for the final audition against her nemesis Camille. After a terrible ending performance by Felicie, Camille is ultimately given the role of Clara. Dejected and defeated, Felicie returns to the orphanage.
It is her triumphant return to the Opera House to face her fears and foes that provides the true life lesson for all. It is her belief in herself that gives her back her confidence and spirit. In a defining scene, Merante asks Felicie why she dances. Felicie answers with “because it is my passion!” And that has made all the difference.
Leap! Has a little bit of “Rocky”, a little bit of “Flashdance”, and a whole lot of Heart. This film has it all. The kid from nowhere with the dream of hitting it big. The privileged rival with the overbearing parent. The love triangle. An overcoming of failure, and the ultimate rise to the occasion performance we all root for at the end of a great movie.
Leap! Professes that is it ok to dream big, and that failure is part of the overall journey. It is not how many times you fall that counts, but the amount of times you get up and try again! I give this film a solid 3 out of 4 stars. A must see for any ballerina’s out there like Maddie and Ella.
This film should be seen by any aspiring dancer who have “passion” as the answer to why they dance. For those that lack the confidence or spirit to go on, just believe in yourself and just Leap!