A Chorus Line (1985) Movie Review

A Chorus Line (1985)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler


Starring: Michael Douglas, Michael Blevins, Yamil Borges, Jan Gan Boyd, Cameron English
Director: Richard Attenborough
Release Date: 13 December 1985
Language: English
Length: 113 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 2.5/5 stars


“Based on the smash hit Broadway musical with a score by Marvin Hamlisch and starring Michael Douglas, A Chorus Line tells the story of a group of young dancers auditioning for a part in a new show. It includes such song hits as “What I Did for Love,” “Dance 10, Looks 3” and “At the Ballet.” The stage version won many Tony Awards and even a Pulitzer Prize. ” — Netflix.com


I was a bit disappointed in this musical.  It was not at all what I was expecting so I found it quite a bit more depressing than anticipated.  I had heard most of the music before I watched the movie version and I knew a bit about the ending, but that was it.  I guess I was most surprised by how much sexual content was contained in this movie.  There are songs about having sex for the first time, getting plastic surgery done to get more sex, broken homes, affairs, and more.  My favorite song in the musical was “One,” and it was really the only true song-and-dance number in the entire film.  Some of the other songs were interesting or funny or shocking, but not necessarily anything enjoyable.  “What I Did for Love” was really marginalized in this version and I was disappointed as I felt like that song really encapsulated the entire bittersweet process of doing something you love, but not being good enough at it to make a living.

The dancers auditioning also share their personal stories of how they ended up on Broadway and, I must say, I found most of these stories heartwrenching.  What made it even more difficult was that I knew that this musical was based on the stories of real dancers who were auditioning to be in the chorus line of another musical.  One boy in particular really touched me.   Paul (Cameron English) shared his story of being fondled as a kid by men in the theatre, his first job as a crossdresser in a club and his slow downward spiral into obscurity.  The others had stories of broken homes, which led them to turn to dance as a kind of escape and perfect fantasy world; mental breakdowns due to the stress of performing; happy marriages that turned into bitter divorces; and promising young careers that turned into desperately searching for a job – any job.  I wasn’t really expecting to be impacted as much by the music and the dancers at the audition and so was not really prepared for the emotional attachment I discovered.  There is no way that I could be a director or a producer or anyone selecting the talent for something like this as.  After I heard their personal stories, I would have felt like I had to take them all.  No way could I have them open up and share their secrets, their dreams and then be able to turn them away at the end.

This movie version of the musical is a bit dated, as seen through the costumes mainly, but is still pretty good.  The set is a dark, rather dingy theatre.  I did not really find anything upbeat or sunshiney in this musical so I was a bit bummed by that.  I usually watch musicals to pep me up and put a smile on my face and this movie rather did the opposite.  I also think that they turned this musical into something more boring than it would be if you watched it live.  They changed a lot of stuff around and the lead-in to the music at the beginning is really long.  It took a good 30 – 40 minutes for the action to begin and I was a bit bored at times.  I had a tough time rating this film as there were some things that I enjoyed, but ultimately, I just found myself underwhelmed with this one.


This movie contains a lot of sexual content and pretty strong & explicit language.  The songs and scenes deal with discovering you are gay, first sexual experiences, crossdressing, fondling and petting by older men while a child, and more.  There are songs about getting plastic surgery done, self-esteem, being picked on and made fun of, suicidal thoughts and other dark, mature themes.  Recommended for ages 14 and up.

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