The Business Of Fancydancing

"Very Good"

The Business Of Fancydancing Review


"The Business of Fancydancing" is a distinctively empathetic drama about an egotistical, intellectual, gay American Indian poet returning to his reservation 16 years after leaving to make his fortune by publicly exploiting the heritage he privately shuns.

The funeral of a childhood friend is the catalyst for this trip that Seymour Polatkin (Evan Adams) doesn't want to make, knowing he'll find harsh criticism from former buddies and members of the tribe he left behind as fast as he could after graduating high school.

A highly personal meditation on the choices we make that define our identity, this film is the work of independent Indian filmmaker Sherman Alexie (writer of "Smoke Signals"), who does an extraordinary job of bringing to life the fear, frustration and bitterness of his cast of characters, as well as the blood ties and kinship that bind them together in spite of it all.

Seymour -- who has never looked back except to write about life on "the rez" in books of poetry that have made him popular among the white literary intelligentsia -- feels he has escaped a life of voluntary imprisonment by succeeding on the outside. And while he'd never admit to feeling trapped between two worlds, he masks his social unease with a conspicuous sense of superiority when it comes time to face the old friends whose lives he's often usurped for his poetry.

It's extraordinary how Alexie and Adams create a character who is easy to identify with despite being a smug and selfish upstart (not to mention a minority within a minority). Adams' performance quietly betrays Seymour's compound insecurities, even as his wears his charming cockiness on his sleeve. He also does a fantastic job of portraying the character at three different ages, from his enthusiastic, experimental youth ("I've had sex with one Indian woman, 112 white boys and two black men," he laughs, "but I've never slept with an Indian man.") through to his now solemn adult cynicism.

But just as importantly, the film identifies with the mixed feelings of those people Seymour abandoned in his resolute determination to shake off the shackles of his ancestry while capitalizing on it at the same time.

Angry Aristotle (Gene Tagaban) left for college with Seymour all those years ago and double-majored in math and chemistry, but felt so ostracized in the white world that he returned to the reservation and succumbed to animosity and drink. Alexie shows us Seymour through Aristotle's eyes as a pathetic token of his tribe, a "little public relations warrior" who "puts on (his) little beads and feathers for all these white people."

Agnes (Michelle St. John), who was Seymour's college girlfriend before he came out of the closet, is half Indian and half Jewish. She understood her lover's internal chaos, but while he was running away from his past, she moved toward it, becoming a teacher on his reservation. She's his only defender at the funeral, reminding bitter mourners that "he's out there telling everybody we're still here." But at the same time she reprimands Seymour when he insists he's succeeded on his own, saying, "These Indians you write about are giving you help every damn day," she reminds him.

In an array of home videos we also meet misanthropic but comical Mouse (Swil Kanim), whose overdose death has brought them all together again. His observations about Seymour are often the simplest and most enlightening. "Seymour never writes about laughter," Mouse states in one videotape missive in which he grouses about the way his friend portrays rez life.

None of these performances shies away from character flaws and all of them are heartfelt, honest, unaffected, and uniquely human.

Alexie also gives us a glimpse into Seymour's poetry, which is vivid, full of soul and deeply moving, while being somewhat theatrical and pretentious at the same time. It's a deft balance the writer-director strikes, demonstrating just how deeply he probed his characters' psyches in the creative process.

The film's style is sometimes strongly symbolic, with simple, dream-like interludes of individual characters performing ceremonial dances in complete blackness, and episodes of Seymour reading his first-person poetry aloud as he is replaced in-camera by the character from whom he stole the story.

If there's one problem with "The Business of Fancydancing" that prevents it from being completely absorbing, it's the fact that the movie was shot on low-end digital video. Sometimes the image quality is so bad it takes you right out of the story -- especially when Alexie composes what might otherwise be gorgeous shots, like a forest path through aspen trees or a ceremonial dance that transitions into a strobe-lit night club scene symbolizing Seymour's continuing incongruity with the world he's chosen to inhabit.

But as hard as it may be at times, it's worth looking past the film's technical shortcomings to find is complex and textured spirit.



The Business Of Fancydancing

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Monday 14th January 2002

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 13

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Advertisement
Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.