Shall We Dance?

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            John Clark (Richard Gere) is the centerpiece of a contented suburban family. He has a good job, a loving wife ( Susan Sarandon as Bev), an affectionate daughter, and a good house.  Itís the suburban landscape of many dreams, though Johnís dreams of late have wandered off the flagstone path.

            The dutiful lawyer has an air of melancholy.  Itís the old story:  whereís the excitement? As he rides the commuter train, Johnís eye is caught by a dark-haired beauty (Jennifer Lopez as Paulina) standing in the upstairs window of Miss Mitziís Ballroom Dance Studio.  After a few evening sightings, John gets off the train and enrolls.   

            The fact that we are mercifully spared an affair between John and Paulina opens up the movie for a sweeter subject:  what to do when a marriage loses its edge.  After years of trying to like the same people, places, and things, marriage can fray a bit.  This movie, in the absence of the usual affair, is a nice push between the shoulders to find something of our own to be excited about.

            Initially John is drawn to Paulina, but, encouraged by Miss Mitzi (Anita Gillette), he becomes one of three new students who become comic foils for the dour lawyer.  Vern (Omar Benson Miller) is trying to slim down for his fiancť; Chic (Bobby Cannavale) is looking for dames; The downside here is that the story is predictable, and the writers have gone for cute laced with slapstick.  Eight years ago, the Japanese made this same movie, written by them as the tender story of a Japanese businessman who had to break through the societal rules that forbade him to dance.  It was a far more subtle film, though not necessarily a more engaging one.  This movie is done in the American extravaganza style as opposed to instinctive Japanese restraint.

            The actors save the film.  ď Chicago Ē showed audiences that Richard Gere is a song and dance man at heart, so it is no surprise that he is thoroughly enjoyable in this role.  Susan Sarandon, as always, says everything with her eyes, and says a lot.  Jennifer Lopez, whose character has lost her lover/dance partner, spends entirely too much time looking sadly out the window.  We come to learn that these long, silent periods will lead to explosive self-expression.  Stanley Tucci, in the role of conservative executive, thinks only of dance.  Disguised as a latin lothario in a ludicrous wig and phony teeth, he grabs the part and goes over top completely, taking most of the approving audience with him. 

            No fights, no arguments in this disparate group.  After a few misunderstandings, everyone jumps into the cheerleading section, for the guys who are out there on the floor and for John and his unlikely partner Bobbie, the Bobinator, (Lisa Ann Walter) who together put a big exclamation mark after the thought that two people can share a passion without sharing one for each other.


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