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‘The Aerialist’ Takes Flight and Stays Aloft

Dreya Weber powers a gritty tale of dancers enduring show business' dark side

And you thought Jennifer Lopez was a legend for workin’ a stripper pole in “Hustlers.”

Dreya Weber is a physical wonder in “The Aerialist,” a richly entertaining tale set in the world of dance theater. She’s also the film’s bruised heart, a warrior nursing more than physical wounds.

THE AERIALIST (Feature Trailer)

Most behind the scenes Hollywood stories focus on the rich and famous types, the glamorous souls who entertain us for a living.

And oh, what a living at that.

Not Weber’s Jane. She’s a working class dancer in her late ’50s, and she’s got the aches to prove it. She’s part of a legacy tour featuring a blend of old and newer faces, but she considers the core of the group to be her family. The feeling is more than mutual.

That spirit takes a hit when their long-time director steps back to deal with a medical issue. Enter Xavier (Kelly Marcus), a cocksure leader with little interest in legacy, family or tradition. The instant friction is palpable, and it’s up to Jane to keep the peace while maintaining her unconventional “family.”

Meanwhile, a snoopy journalist (Morgan Bradley) is probing Jane for a magazine profile that seems as invasive as a TSA pat down.

“The Aerialist” packs its share of soapy elements, but each flows from character, place and raw emotion. Even the third act reveal, and it’s a doozy, is grounded by both the growing clues and the emotional through line.

Films often let us glimpse at the lives, and professions, of people we’d never experience otherwise. Here, it’s a workaday dance troupe juggling egos, injuries and commercial demands.

Weber is nothing less than a wonder in the air, her movements throwing shade at both time and gravity. On terra firma she’s more vulnerable, unsure, and it’s how Weber illustrates that pain that makes the performance pop.

The film delivers just enough dance sequences to set the stage, but it’s the inner workings of the troupe that’s worth your full attention.

It’s only appropriate that the film ultimately delivers more joy than pain despite the hardships Jane endures. This is about the world of entertainment, after all, and the show must go on. Still, the third-act sugar coating is applied with restraint, and the cold truths these dancers endure is never out of the frame.

HiT or Miss: “The Aerialist” delivers stunning acrobats with a blend of righteous melodrama.

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