Film Reviews

SHALL WE DANCE?

By • Oct 15th, 2004 •

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Released by Miramax
Rated PG-13 / Running time: 106 min

DANCE, CLONE, DANCE!

Because of major cultural differences, British director Peter Chelsom’s westernized remake is a major sea-change from the 1996 Japanese original — Masayuki Suo’s sensitive, critically-acclaimed drama. Give or take some superficial introspection by Gere as a lawyer in the throes of mid-life crisis, this considerably reworked version plays it strictly for laughs.

And laugh you will—as long as you can treat it solely as a kissing cousin (once removed) from its predecessor. It is funny—and an irresistible bit of fluff that’s a delightful diversion from the stress of contemporary life.

Plot: John Clark (Gere) works long hours. Ditto his wife Beverly (Sarandon), actively preoccupied with everything. Except him. Though he loves her, he’s a lonely man. There has to be more.

Then, late one evening on his train ride home, he finds it! As in the original, in a building across the way, he catches a fleeting glimpse of a woman (Lopez) in the window of “Miss Mitzi’s Dance Studio.” Fascinated by both her beauty and look of melancholy, he’s hooked. Faster than a speeding Bullitt, he enrolls in ballroom classes—filled with an olio of oddballs that could rival the cast of “Welcome Back Kotter.”

They’re all over-the-top characters, all using the medium of dance to further their own personal needs—whether to meet girls (Bobby Cannavale’s macho Chic), become less graceless (Omar Benson Miller’s Vern), or give vent to a repressed desire to let it all hang out (Stanley Tucci’s Link – usually in an outrageous wig). And they’re all eccentrically terrific, especially Tucci, who dances like Carmen Miranda on some sort of hallucinogen.

Kudos also to Lisa Ann Walter’s Bobbie, another off-the-wall buxom blonde student, and Anita Gilette’s Miss Mitzi, duenna of the rinky-dink studio, who has the formidable task of shaping up her klutzy class for the end-of-season ballroom competition. Superb performances all.

Gere is an absolute charmer—on and off the dance floor; Sarandon, less so (her role, not her), as a rigid frigid career woman who would seem perfectly comfortable in an igloo. Their problem: a failure to communicate. He doesn’t tell her about his classes—which keep him away on Wednesday nights. She suspects he’s having an affair, but is too afraid to ask. (Like ships that pass in the night, she suggests “We can read ads together.”)

Finally, last but certainly not least: Jennifer Lopez. J Lo acquits herself incomparably better here (as Paulina, a soulful instructor who’d been dumped by her former partner/lover) than in any of her most recent films. Not only does she dance exquisitely and show poignancy in her acting but, particularly in one hilarious scene teaching elementary body movements to a student, she tosses him around like a Marine sergeant at boot camp while delivering lines better, funnier and more effective than all the dialogue she’d spoken in “Gigli” put together.

Bottom line: No classic, but a classic case of entertaining, goofball comedy. Besides, even though Lopez was the film’s only professionally-trained dancer cast, they all trip the light fantastic fantastically.


Cast:
Richard Gere (John Clark)
Jennifer Lopez (Paulina)
Susan Sarandon (Beverly Clark)
Stanley Tucci (Link Peterson)
Bobby Cannavale (Chic)
Lisa Ann Walter (Bobbie)
Omar Benson Miller (Vern)
Anita Gilette (Miss Mitzi);
Richard Jenkins (Detective)
Nick Cannon (Scotty);

Credits:
Produced by Simon Fields
Co-Producer Mari Jo Winkler
Editor: Charlie Ireland
Dir. of Photography: John DeBorman, B.S.C.
Editor: Charlie Ireland
Prod. Design: Caroline Hanania
Costume Designer: Sophie de Rakoff Carbonell
Choreographer: John O’Connell.

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