‘Birds of Paradise’ review: A ballet-centered tale of two ‘frenemies’


Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

(Left to right) Kristine Froseth and Diana Silvers ace their role in Amazon’s new drama, “Birds of Paradise.”

Amazon presents the R-rated drama “Birds of Paradise” on Sept. 24. The film highlights the struggle of power and privilege within the world of Parisian ballet. 

A pair of students at an elite ballet academy develop a unique relationship as they fight to become the school’s best ballerina. When it comes to this dancing duo, the two could not be more different. 

Kate (Diana Silvers) is an American student attending the academy on scholarship. She’s a former basketball player who is a late-comer to ballet. Marine (Kristine Froseth), a talented dancer, struggles to overcome the loss of her twin brother, Ollie, and the pressures of her family. 

A highly competitive quest to become the company’s best female ballerina consumes the entire student body, ultimately turning Kate and Marine into frenemies. 

Within the academy, the students are tormented by their teacher (Jacqueline Bassett), who preys on the weaknesses and insecurities of the dancers. Structured around the countdown to the ultimate prize, the film is a tale of betrayal and sabotage. 

The film is an adaptation of A.K. Small’s 2019 young-adult novel, “Bright Burning Stars.” The writer and director, Sarah Adina Smith, stirs the pot by highlighting the politics and intensity of ballet. 

Silvers’ performance was an admirable transition from one of her better known roles in the 2019 film “Booksmart” where she plays a more innocent character. Her role as Kate is perfectly executed as she portrays the “good girl gone bad.”

“Birds of Paradise” felt familiar to “Black Swan,” which also follows the life of two female ballerinas competing for a spot. Aesthetically, both films have creative ways of emphasizing the beauty of ballet while revealing the darkness within. 

“Birds of Paradise” plays to a younger adult audience, and it works. Director Sarah Adina Smith, best known for her films “Buster’s Mal Heart” (2016) and “The Midnight Swim” (2014) is no stranger to thrilling dramas.

Smith played to her strengths once again in “Birds of Paradise,” developing a story with two strong female characters as they navigate the toxicity and anxiety of adolescent ballet. 

Sophia Pearson can be reached at [email protected] or @sophia__pearson on Twitter.

Rating: 4/5