A romantic comedy where a bored, overworked Estate Lawyer, upon first sight of a beautiful instructor, signs up for ballroom dancing lessons.A romantic comedy where a bored, overworked Estate Lawyer, upon first sight of a beautiful instructor, signs up for ballroom dancing lessons.A romantic comedy where a bored, overworked Estate Lawyer, upon first sight of a beautiful instructor, signs up for ballroom dancing lessons.
The story was much better than most dance movies as it was less about dance and more about what it means to be human. For that we should thank Director Peter Chelsom whose only other notable work seems to be the film 'Serendipity'. In this outing, the experienced Richard Gere (who, BTW, is only a year older than me) plays a highly successful attorney bored with his life in spite of being married to a stunning and still very sexy Susan Sarandon. He seems to have everything on the surface (how could you not with Ms. Sarandon as a wife?), everything that is, except fun in his life. He longingly spies a brooding Jennifer Lopez staring out the window of an old dance studio in decline as he passes by on the L train each day as he goes home from work. She raises his curiosity enough that he thinks he wants to meet her. It's a dance studio with a sign that says that watching is welcome. Lopez immediately scoops him up for a dance class for beginners in ballroom dancing and there it takes off. His initial interest in the famously callipygous Ms. J is finally supplanted with a genuine love of dancing. He is hooked and it changes his life for the better and we have a great time sharing his new found joy. I was pleased beyond words that this did not fall headlong into what could have been a film of nothing but infidelities. That it didn't follow that path is a laudable tribute to scores of real people who do the same every day; turn away from temptation. I think this is just about my favorite role I've ever seen Gere in. He played the part with great skill and brought out just the right emotions from the audience who applauded at the end. Even the great Ms. Sarandon adds an unexpected turn as philosopher with a comment on the realities of marriage that ring fully true. She made the perfect counterpoint as the amazing superwife who made us all wonder if Gere was nuts for being so unhappy at the start.
As for the rest of the cast, Anita Gillette was wonderfully cast as the studio owner Miss Mitzi. Her portrayal of the older woman who has her best days behind her is both touching and sweet without making us feel sorry for her. She seems in her element here. She did a wonderful job. Bobby Cannavale as 'Chick', whom I last saw playing a ruggedly handsome paramedic in the TV series Third Watch, did a terrific job as one of Gere's fellow beginners. He also gave one of the biggest laughs of the film just at the end. We should be treated to more of him on the big screen, he graces it well. The previously unseen Omar Benson Miller as 'Vern' and Mya who plays his girlfriend both added some warm moments of their own, his in a more literal sense. The very good Lisa Ann Walter plays Bobbie, a very funny character role she wore so well she nearly owned every scene she was in. Just about the best in the film was Stanley Tucci, who did an absolutely brilliant turn as - and I paraphrase - 'Just about the only hetero guy on earth who like parading around dancing in sequins.' He was great, so great in fact, that if he doesn't get a nomination for a Best Supporting Actor award he'd be robbed. He did steal a lot of scenes with no apologies needed. He deserved every one.
The rest of the elements in the film worked very well to paint just the right mood. The sets were realistic and not overly noticeable, leaving the attention to the actors where it belonged. The costuming was great and added some great moments of their own, from Sarandon in a T Shirt to Lopez in an amazing gown near the end to even Gere's tuxedos and natty business suits. But it's the costumes of Tucci and Walter that are the most entertaining. The musical score was great too, just right for the dancing and mood of the film. The sound editing was outstanding, very enjoyable.
We all left the theater with smiles on our faces talking about bringing friends back to see it when it comes out. It is a film well worth the price of admission.
- Oct 2, 2004