An aerial ballet is something to behold. Acrobats contort their bodies in impossible ways, gliding over the stage, becoming one with their silks, emulating the fluidity of nature’s elements. Writer-director Ned Farr attempts to capture that artistry in The Aerialist, a drama that manages to be both authentic and schematic. While it’s abundantly clear that Farr and his star Dreya Weber, who produced the movie and is an actual aerialist, know that physics-defying world inside-out, they could use a lesson or two in defying a predictable, sentimental story arc.
Weber stars as Jane, an aging pro aerialist with a severe shoulder injury. She performs at an elite, tightly-knit cirque, which is about to embark on its last tour. When reporter Runa Wolff (Morgan Bradley) comes to write a piece on Jane, the two form a relationship that – spoiler alert! – leads to a twist that is foreseeable from the minute they meet. The film isn’t shy about revealing its clues, as the name Runa means secret in Ancient Norse, and the young woman wears a pendant shaped like a key. She’s a secret, you see, that needs to be unlocked.
“…protagonist is about to get promoted to director status, in comes hunky replacement Xavier…”
Just when our legendary protagonist is about to get promoted to director status, in comes hunky replacement Xavier (Kelly Marcus) – he prefers to be called X – much to the dismay of Jane and her troupe. X’s drastic changes lead to major injuries, and Jane’s fam, one by one, starts to dismantle. “The fans know us as the family,” Jane’s best friend, Hathaway (Thunderbird Dinwiddie), snaps at X, before storming out of the studio. X doesn’t care. He’s a puppet, brought in to freshen things up; an ageist douche, switching old pros with young amateurs. And so Jane embarks on a mission to bring her family back together. I’ll let you guess whether or not she succeeds.
The film never quite escapes its made-for-TV aesthetic. Visually, it’s remarkably bland, considering the sensual subject matter that screams out for a true artistic vision. Yes, the aerial sequences verge on stunning at times, but that’s due to the performers doing what they do best. This is despite Farr’s best attempts to drown them out in a cacophony of cheesy pop music and bottom-shelf stylistic flourishes (unless you consider fast motion a revelatory visual touch).
"…acrobats contort their bodies in impossible ways, gliding over the stage, becoming one with their silks..."