Judge Bill Gibron may like to get out on the dance floor and trip the light fantastic, but he can't match the amazing moves offered by star Roselyn Sanchez in this agreeable star-struck melodrama.
From Tragedy to Triumph Nothing Shines Brighter Than Yellow.
When her famous ex-dancer father dies, Amaryllis Campos (Roselyn Sanchez, Rush Hour 2) decides she can no longer deny her dream. Raised by her dad to be a ballerina, our unhappy gal just wants her shot at the limelight. Leaving her mother and trifling boyfriend behind, she turns her back on Puerto Rico and heads for New York. Hoping to live with a cousin of a friend, she finds the city cold and very cruel. Luckily, the proposed apartment is empty, and her next-door neighbor Miles (Bill Duke, Predator) is a kind, if slightly eccentric, poet. It's not long before our heroine learns that talent is a dime a dozen in the Big Apple, and soon she is working in a strip club under the guidance of "good guy" Jack Frawley and his drag queen assistant. One night, she notices a quiet man seated in the corner. Turns out it's regular customer Christian (D.B. Sweeney, Eight Men Out), a doctor who's very good to the dancers. He takes a shine to Amaryllis, and helps her during an onstage emergency. Before long they're an item, and he makes an unusual request. He is off to work in Australia, and he wants his newfound companion to accompany him. As luck would have it, they would leave the same day our plucky young go-getter has her first real Broadway audition. Will she go with her rich, adoring man? Or will she stay, and struggle, hoping to make a name for herself—other than the stage moniker, Yellow, that her benevolent boss has provided.
Though it looks like its going to be another MTV style "super hot chick makes good" drama, Yellow actually has more in common with the old-fashioned Hollywood musical than the post-Flashdance era of entertainment. Granted, it's missing most of the sunny side-upness that drove those ancient Tinseltown artifacts, and director Alfredo De Villa can't avoid the occasional music video-like montage. Still, because this formulaic material is approached in a thoroughly serious manner, concentrating more on character than campiness, we find ourselves falling for every clear cut cliché. It's not that Amaryllis and her desire to dance are reinventing the melodramatic wheel. Instead, star Roselyn Sanchez does a brilliant job of selling the sincerity of her Broadway wannabe immigrant. There is never a moment when this actress allows her performance to drift over into glassy eyed naiveté. This is a gal who has everyone's number, from her trifling, pot-selling boyfriend to her distant, horndog mother. When tragedy strikes, she doesn't settle for the grief. Instead, she takes the bold step to head stateside, pursuing a goal she's let lie for far too long. Sure, some of the plot turns can be a bit pat—her next-door neighbor is not a hood, but a noble, slightly nutty elderly poet; while working as a stripper, she catches the eye of a lonely doctor. Yet somehow Yellow disregards the derivative and finds a fresh way to make us care.
Most of the success rides directly on Sanchez's shoulders. She is a great-looking woman, sleek and sexy without looking too terribly thin (though a shot while walking around the Village does expose a rather skeletal collarbone). She can move, and all research points to the fact that it is indeed her doing the hoofing. From salsa to working the pole, modern to well-meaning classical, Yellow runs the gamut of dance's many artistic expressions. Unlike similarly styled films like Step Up and Save the Last Dance, we don't see stunt people being hidden behind clever camera work. No matter the set-up—auditioning for a shot at the big time or exposing her assets for a wily club owner, it's all Sanchez. So are the scenes where she's not strutting her stuff. One of the most intriguing aspects of Amaryllis's personality is her genuine openness. She's not nosy, she's frank. When Bill Pope's writer tries to avoid her questions (about the past, about his profession), our heroine simply digs in and slugs away. Certainly, there are aspects that test our patience. D. B. Sweeney, looking like he's channeling Stephen Baldwin (both professionally and physically) is a cipher as the lost, forlorn physician. We don't understand his inner turmoil—it has something to do with Australia, his ex-wife, and "looking to be found"—but see him only as a roadblock to Amaryllis's success.
And then there is the film's fascinating look. Instead of making New York a central figure in the narrative, De Villa does something that most "mad about Manhattan" filmmakers fail to consider. He simply lets the city exist. When Sanchez walks down the streets, our director isn't looking for interesting local color to play off her. Similarly, when she "squats" in a friend's cousin's apartment, it's not some fancy first-floor walkup that she could never conceivably afford. Instead, it's a tiny, tactile flat, a place that appears lived in and directly out of a East Side environment. Duke's pad is exactly the same, a small table sitting in the middle of its tiny kitchenette dictating where dinner is served. It's a similar approach to the opening, where Puerto Rico's sun-drenched oasis is illustrated with light more than locations. Now, this could be a permit-oriented shortcut, guerilla-style shooting at its most low-budget, but De Villa makes it work. Sure, his editing may be a bit frantic come moneymaker-shaking time, and there are a few awkward flashbacks that tend to hinder the story's emotional equilibrium, but overall, Yellow is a nice little niche effort. Fans of the formidable beauty will definitely enjoy this slightly saccharine shuffle. But for the most part, what you see here is what you get—good performances, excellent dancing, and a splash of big-city authenticity to top it all off.
Offered by Sony in a decent digital package, the technical aspects of Yellow are actually very good. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is colorful, bright, and loaded with details. The sequences in Puerto Rico shimmer with Caribbean clarity, and the Big Apple sparkles in all its neon notoriety. On the sound side, the DVD offers some intriguing choices. You can listen to the theatrical version, where English and Spanish co-existed nicely, or a newly remastered dub which replaces the foreign conversations. In either case, the Dolby Digital 5.1 brings the limber Latino-tinged songs to life, and the ambient aspects of the metropolitan setting are regularly represented. As for added content, we are treated to a selection of deleted scenes (interesting, but not essential), an interview with star Sanchez about the film (she's personable and very passionate about this project), and a standard collection of trailers and previews. While it would have been nice to hear from De Villa—say, during a full-length audio track—the bonus features do a good job of complementing this otherwise unknown quantity.
It should come as no surprise to any viewer of Yellow that Roselyn Sanchez's imprint is all over this movie. She stars and dances the title role, but in a very intriguing turn, she also produced and provided the story for the script. Clearly, this was a woman possessed over bringing this particular tale to the silver screen. Her fervor paid off handsomely. Yellow is a fine, if familiar, diversion. Not guilty.
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