Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (2005) Poster

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Beautiful and charming film
Jeff Beachnau13 June 2005
I caught this film at the Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuck Michigan. Directed by Randall Miller and a star filled cast, this film was the best of the festival, and may be one of my favorites of the year. The film begins with baker Robert Carlyle driving down a deserted highway. He comes upon a stranger in a car wreck, played by John Goodman, and the two talk with each other, waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Goodman tells Carlyle of his planned reunion with his childhood love at the place mentioned in the title.

This beautiful film is wonderfully acted, with such stars as Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, Donnie Wahlberg, David Paymer, and Ernie Hudson. I loved the story, I didn't realize you could do so much with such a simple outline. I loved the structure of the film, the way it was edited and shot. There were some very funny moments, very touching moments, and overall it's just a great experience. Some of the filmmakers showed up for the festival and had some great stories to tell. The movie was originally made 15 years ago as a short film of the same title, and a lot of the scenes from the short film are used in the feature as flashback scenes (I knew I saw Donkeylips from Salute Your Shorts).

I think with such an all-star cast and such a good story, this film will at least get release in major cities. So if you get the chance, check this movie out.
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Light on its Feet
baho-131 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There is something about Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School that audiences will find enchanting. The script is quite good, but not overwhelming. The acting very solid, but maybe not as good as I would have expected from Robert Carlyle, John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen, Marisa Tomei and plenty of other all-stars. And cinematography was used in some interesting ways to delineate three different periods, which provided perspective, but was hardly revolutionary.

But the beauty of the movie is really none of these. Robert Carlyle plays Frank Keane, a baker (from a long line of bakers in the family business) recovering from the tragic loss of his wife. One day while driving he encounters a car wreck, and begins to talk to the mortally wounded driver, Steve (John Goodman). What unfolds is the interweaving of stories—Steve's experience as a 12-year-old in the Marilyn Hotchkiss School, and Frank's as he fulfills a promise to the dying Steve.

What emerges, rather remarkably, is a story filled with tragedy that nevertheless manages to be warm, light-hearted, nostalgic, funny and inspiring. Carlyle seems an unlikely protagonist, but his character gradually blossoms into someone that is quietly heroic, as his encounter with Goodman takes him on a path of exploration, self-discovery and love. Director Randall Miller has done a remarkable job of telling a story filled with meaningful insight and compassionate charm. I flat out loved this movie, as did the rest of the audience at Sundance.
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masterful mingling of narratives
Poetica18 December 2006
The film's use of two voices relaying three narrative threads, artfully woven without confusion while maintaining audience interest and focus, could be used as a textbook for compound story structure. If the story hadn't been expanded from a short film thereby requiring this approach, I'd be heaping superlative praise on its inventiveness as well.

Entertaining, well-cast with excellent performances by its ensemble of seasoned character actors, and just quirky enough to offset its sometimes saccharin character, I think this will grow a deserved following when it airs on cable. A solid illustration of the possibility of 'charm' in contemporary cinema, it presented little violence beyond its illustration of an automobile accident site and the language of adolescent boys, and managed a passionate but never prurient love scene under cover of a liberal dusting of flour.

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Emotional roller-coaster, Mary Steenburgen is amazing
rdfaber7 February 2005
It took a while before i felt involved with the film and the characters. However, once more characters started joining the dance class i started to look forward to every scene in the ballroom. Robert Carlyle was obviously the lead role but Mary Steenburgen was fabulous. She was funny but serious and assertive, and her wardrobe throughout the movie evolved along with her character. A nice, subtle touch. As was the gentleman who starts and stops the music for her during the film, i think his name was Freeway? I started looking forward to every time he hit play on that tiny boom box and hearing the music boom through the theater sound. Overall i really enjoyed the film even though it started a little slow.
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Wonderful Movie
n756tk16 March 2005
I saw this movie at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. It truly was a wonderful package. All parts come together. After the film, the audience gave it a standing applause. It was a hit with the audience, including myself. I would see it again. Robert Carlyle was very good as the sympathetic baker, consumed by his wife's death, and inadvertently drawn into an emergency situation. The director/writer incorporates his older film of a boy's experience of being forced to go to dance and charm school, melding it perfectly with the now adult man's perception played by John Goodman. Others in the film were Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen, Donnie Wahlber, and Sean Astin, all giving a wonderful performance.
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A guy who's lost his wife winds up at a dance school and learns to fall in love again.
Susan Montella22 March 2006
This movie got it right where a bunch of other movies have gotten it totally wrong. Most movies about grieving and loss gloss over what it really feels like to lose someone, but Hotchkiss' really makes you feel how alone Frank is after losing his wife before you see him begin to learn how to let go and move on. The cast in this movie (John Goodman, Danny Devito, Marisa Tomei, Donnie Wahlberg, Sean Astin) is stronger than most big budget Hollywood movies (Robert Carlyle is really amazing here!) but this isn't an 'indie' film with boring camera shots and amateurish productions, it's very stylishly shot and incredibly well-done all around. Best of both worlds.
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simple yet surprisingly introspective
Henry Berman31 January 2005
Though certainly not about a new and unique topic in entertainment, this film presents a multi-dimensional perspective about experiences that we all, as human beings, can relate.

The films unique approach, and the actors sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic execution causes a myriad of emotions to surface during the development of the plot. The audience laughs, cries, and I was personally touched by both the plot transitions and the elegant development of the characters and story line throughout the film.

The film provoked reflection in the audience by asking questions and allowing this moviegoer to connect many life experiences to the film. So many movies today are developed for entertainment purposes only, usually either through special effects or dark, dismal shock factor. This film differentiated itself by not wrapping everything up in a pretty little package, leaving room for discussion and interpretation. And Mary Steenburgen's performance was easily one of the best I've seen at the entire film festival.
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A Touching Drama
keanuette5 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I loved this movie and sobbed my heart out at the end. I'm a sappy kinda gal and it wrenched my heart strings good and proper. I love the fact that the story is based on a short clip the director, Randall Miller made some 15 years ago, which he embellished into a full story about finding your joy again after the loss of a loved one.

All around the performances were superb. I was very taken by Robert Carlyle's grief stricken husband, who happens upon a tragic accident and fulfils the dying person's (John Goodman) last wish to visit the place where he was travelling to - Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, where he was meant to meet his long lost sweetheart on the 5th day of the 5th month of the 5th year of the Millennium.

The story seems crazy, but it worked for me as Frank Keane (Carlyle) becomes involved with the decorums, courtesies and fancies that the ballroom dancing class has to offer and also finds love in the shape of Meredith Morrison (played delicately by Marisa Tomei).

There's a great supporting cast of zany characters that will have you laughing at their antics as girl tries to snare boy on the ballroom dance floor. The shenanigans are lead by the wondering Mary Steenburgen, who shows such great poise and gentility as Miss Marienne Hotchkiss, carrying on the tradition of her long departed mother Marylyn.

Another outstanding performance was by Donnie Wahlberg, as the overly overprotective step-brother to Meredith, Randall Ipswitch, who has a passion for ballroom dancing and domestic violence. It is his life. Donnie has become a fantastic character actor and deserves much more credit than he gets.

I would have liked a slightly better ending to the John Goodman storyline, but no matter. The movie was great IMHO and touched me to the core.

Go see this movie when it comes out. You'll never be the same again.
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Outstanding Cast, Great Story
DonnaGraysonDotCom9 April 2006
I loved the movie. I hope you get a chance to see it and it comes to your area. Its a great life story. John Goodman plays a man who is trying to return to his childhood girlfriend. Robert Carlyle finds him in his hour of need, and agrees to meet the childhood girlfriend for him

Robert Carlyle and Marisa Tomei are so wonderful together. The story of their meeting and falling and love is very romantic.

Mary Steenburgen is outstanding in her role as the dance instructor.

And Donnie Wahlberg steals the movie with his character.

Its a movie filled with outstanding actors. And a very touching and moving story. With great childhood stories.
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Sweet and Charming
destiny_dances17 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was so incredibly sweet! I really loved how the Robert Carlyle's character learns to love (and live) again. John Goodman was amazing telling his story, and the flashback scenes with the kids were so sweet.

I loved how John Goodman's character passes on his destiny to Robert Carlyle's character, and how everyone's life is impacted. This is a wonderful story of love and loss and moving forward. The dancing may not be brilliant, but it's not about the dancing. It's about real people learning to dance and learning so much more in the process. It's about people actually connecting with each other.

The supporting cast was awesome! There were so many people I recognized. Mary Steenburgen was just brilliant was the eccentric dance teacher, and Donnie Wahlberg was so funny as the jealous step-brother. And so many more celebrities - Sean Astin, Camyrn Manheim, Danny DeVito, Adam Arkin -- the list goes on and on.

I highly recommend this wonderful film. It made me laugh and cry. It made me want to dance!
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