the partner I want to dance with"
John Clark (Gere) has a perfect wife and family, a respected
job and a comfortable lifestyle but he isn't happy. His kids are growing
up and don't need him any more, his job is becoming monotonous and due to
work, he hardly ever sees his wife, John needs something in his life. Riding
the train home every night, he sees a beautiful woman stood at the window
of a ballroom dance studio looking as unhappy as he feels. As the days pass
he becomes more and more curious about her but when impulses take over he
finds himself in the dance studio signing up for ballroom lessons.
Hollywood's relentless passion for remaking hit foreign movies
continues as their ideas well carries on drying up but can 'Shall We Dance?'
get your feet moving?
Based on the 1997 Japanese movie, Hollywood remake of the
story of a man escaping his mundane office job takes that premise and adds
a huge dollop of Tinseltown sentimentally. The film starts well, introducing
you to a collection of characters that have come to ballroom dancing for
their own personal reasons. We see them start their lessons with the obligatory
falls, gaffs and questioning of each other's sexuality when two men have
to dance together but as time passes they get better. This part of the film
is filled with comedic elements and draws you into the characters and their
reasons for taking the lessons but then the Hollywood sentiment hits.
The last half hour of the movie is cringe worthy. You will
not believe the about of sugary sweetness that is dowsed all over you, to
the point that it makes you feel quite ill. All the good work and character
development is gone as soon as ballroom dance competition finishing and
sentimentally takes over. The fun is gone as the reasons for John's unhappiness
are revealed and the inevitable happy ending is telegraphed as soon as he
talks to his wife.
The performances from the cast are good however, for two thirds
of the film that is. Richard Gere embraces his age by playing a father and
having a wife that is actually the same age as him. As John Clark we see
a man stifled by his own success and jobs both he and his wife have. As
they are both successful, they don't spend enough time together and some
of the spark has gone. Gere plays this well, portraying the reality of the
modern working marriage very honestly, revealing the characters frustration
and his longing for friendship and diversity in his life. Jennifer Lopez
gives one of her best performances since 'Out of Sight' as failed ballroom
dancer Paulina. A gifted dancer in her own right, this is a role that doesn't
require much acting on her behave and she doesn't really have that much
to do expect dance and look beautiful. Could this be the kind of role she
was meant to play? Stanley Tucci is as good as ever as Link, the passionate
dancer who was embarrassed about his dancing and his baldness. Susan Sarandon
plays John suspicious wife Beverly well, but she could have done with more
screen time and character development and Richard Jenkins supplies the comic
relief as private detective Devine, who is hired by Beverly to find out
what John is up to.
'Shall We Dance?' starts well but suffers from a dramatic
fall at a pivotal moment. Sentimentally and sugary sweetness drown all the
good work that has gone before, completely ruining what was an nice movie
up until then. By the end you will not care if Jennifer Lopez ever gets
her confidence back to step onto that competitive dance floor and head for
the Mecca of ballroom dancing, Blackpool (I kid you not)
Audio commentary from director
Peter Chelsolm, Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Peter Chelsolm,
'Beginner's Ballroom' featurette, 'Behind-the-scenes of Shall We Dance',
The music of 'Shall We Dance' & Pussycat Dolls Music Video - 'Sway'
Shall We Dance (1997)
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