A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The White Crow is a biopic that focuses on the early life of Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko), up to his defection in 1961. It's a deeply unsympathetic portrait, portraying the dancer as an arrogant bully who's constantly talking about his own greatness. Expect strong sexual material: Nureyev is shown with both female and male partners, there's full-frontal male nudity, and characters lie in bed together, naked. A woman seduces a man by rubbing his crotch area and then placing his hand under her dress, on her breast. Women at a nightclub wear costumes with holes cut out for their breasts and buttocks. Language includes a quick outburst of three "f--ks," but little else. Casual/social drinking and smoking are shown throughout, and Valium is mentioned. A gun is shown in a flashback but not fired, a man is said to have died in a car crash, and there's shouting and arguing.
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What's the story?
In THE WHITE CROW, Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) travels to Paris in 1961 to perform with his troupe. He delights in everything Paris has to offer, and he continues to study and to strive for perfection in his art. In flashbacks, viewers learn of his stark childhood and troubled beginnings as a dancer. We also learn of his complex relationships with teacher Alexander Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes), Pushkin's wife (Chulpan Khamatova), and his friend Clara Saint (Adele Exarchopoulos). As Nureyev's time in Paris comes to an end, he's told that he must return to Russia, rather than go on with his troupe to London. He resists and faces a tough decision. Will he defect and risk never seeing his mother again?
Is it any good?
Except maybe for dance fans, it's unclear what, exactly, viewers are supposed to make of this portrait of a deeply unpleasant man whose talent is more spoken of than displayed. Fiennes, who also directed the film, goes to great pains to place an actual dancer (Ivenko) in the starring role, but he then spends the majority of the movie gazing upon his star's face and listening to him talk about how great he is and how famous he's going to be, rather than actually watching him dance. Worse, The White Crow doesn't even begin to try to help non-ballet fans understand what it is about these particular dance moves that makes Nureyev so great.
Written by acclaimed playwright David Hare (The Hours, The Reader), the film takes place in three time periods: Nureyev's childhood (these sequences are in black-and-white), 1955 Leningrad, and 1961 Paris. The latter two tend to blur together, so it becomes confusing to tell precisely where we are in the story, especially because no other characters really come to life. Every other character in the story exists only in relation to Nureyev, and most of them kowtow to him. Finally, while Fiennes' performance as Pushkin is interesting, his direction relies heavily on shaky cam, which seems to be the exact opposite of a graceful art like the ballet. Perhaps viewers who already know a great deal about Nureyev will get something from The White Crow, but newcomers needn't bother.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The White Crow depicts sex. How does the fact that Nureyev has multiple partners affect your view of him? What values are imparted?
Is Nureyev a bully? He may not pick on people physically, but would his behavior qualify as bullying? Why do (or don't) you think so?
How does the movie show the art of the ballet? Is it just for ballet fans, or does it do a good job of explaining things to newcomers?
- In theaters: April 26, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: July 30, 2019
- Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Adele Exarchopoulos, Oleg Ivenko
- Director: Ralph Fiennes
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Arts and Dance
- Run time: 127 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexuality, graphic nudity, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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