Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Strictly Ballroom (live action movie), via Netflix

Strictly Ballroom is an Australian romantic comedy originally produced in 1992.

Synopsis:

Scott Hastings is a superb ballroom dancer who everyone expects will go on to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix. No one understands why he seems so determined to throw it all away by dancing his own steps. His dance partner, Liz, abandons him for a partner more likely to stick to the prescribed steps (i.e. one more likely to win). His mother, a dance school instructor, is desperate to get Scott back on track and begins hunting for a new partner for him.

Meanwhile, Fran, a newbie dancer, loves Scott's new steps and asks him if she can be his partner. At first, Scott is dismissive - Fran is an awkward "ugly duckling," hasn't demonstrated any particular skills in his mother's dance school so far, and is so invisible to other people that she might as well be a piece of furniture. However, Fran makes him pay attention to her, and he reluctantly agrees to teach her. If she can improve quickly enough, Scott will dance with her at the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Scott and Fran, Scott's mother and several others have plans to partner Scott up with gorgeous champion dancer Tina Sparkle.

As they practice for the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix, Scott and Fran begin to fall for each other, and Fran gradually blossoms. However, when faced with the truth about his mother and father's dancing past, will Scott still be able to dance his own steps with Fran at the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix, or will he cave to the pressures of the dancing world and dance the officially recognized steps with someone else?

Review:

I first watched Strictly Ballroom years ago, when my mom checked it out from the library. When I saw it was on Netflix, I decided to re-watch it to see if it was as fun as I remembered. The verdict? It was, although this time around the characters' lack of lives (outside of dancing) was more noticeable to me.

The beginning of the movie has bits that are like excerpts from a mockumentary – Scott's family members and various people in the Australian ballroom dancing world talk about Scott's amazing talent and bemoan him throwing everything away. So much of the movie is just...campy? I don't know if that's the right word. There's glitter and sequins and feathers and eye-popping dance outfit colors. Everyone is focused on dancing, to the point that there is nothing else. And it's the kind of movie where a character can say something like, “I'd become his partner in a second if his current partner broke both her legs,” and, that very instant, the guy walks in to say his current partner broke both her legs and would she like to be his new partner?

A good chunk of the movie is very over-the-top, but I thought it felt a little more “real” whenever Scott danced the way he wanted to and whenever things focused on Fran's family for a bit. Whereas the “official” ballroom dancing was very much bound by prescribed behaviors and steps, Scott and Fran's dancing was more about emotion. Watching the two of them dance was really intense, particularly during their last big dance. I loved that scene. It was thrilling and gorgeous, and it didn't matter that I'd already seen it before.

The romance between Scott and Fran is shown entirely through the lens of dancing. When they're together, they're usually dancing, and Fran first falls for Scott while learning to dance the rumba, the “dance of love,” with him. Even when Scott first meets Fran's family, just about everything that's said and done has some relation to dancing. This worked better for me the first time I saw the movie – this time around, I kind of wished the romance had been less narrowly focused. I'd have liked to have seen Scott win Fran's family over in more arenas than just dance.

Also, one thing that irked me a little this time around: “Scott's new steps.” I was a little uncomfortable with them being called “his” steps after he learned pasodoble dancing from Fran's family.

All in all, I liked this movie maybe a little less than I did when I first watched it, but it was still fun. The dancing was fun, I liked the humor, and I loved watching Fran blossom. Oh yes, and Scott was hot.

Watch-alikes:
  • Best in Show (live action movie) - If you liked the mockumentary bits at the beginning and/or characters' super-serious focus on ballroom dancing, you might want to give this a try. This mockumentary focuses on a few people competing in a national dog show.
  • Dirty Dancing (live action movie) - If you enjoyed watching Scott and Fran fall in love while learning to dance together, you might want to give this movie a try.
  • Save the Last Dance (live action movie) - Julia Stiles' character's last dance in this movie gave me the same feeling that Fran and Scott's last dance in Simply Ballroom did. If you'd like another dance movie in which a dancer learns new movies from someone with a very different background, you might want to give this a try. It has drama and romance.

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