Let’s cut through the baloney. I love this movie because it is so very satisfying. I watched it again today, and got off the sofa with a deep sigh of contentment and a big smile on my face.
I love a happy ending.
I’m sorry–is that a spoiler?
Young, handsome Scott Hastings has been groomed by his nightmare of a mother to be a ballroom dancing champion, but he’s feeling the need to dance his own way. Everyone is against him, yelling right up in his face, except for one homely young woman, Fran, who hangs around his parents’ dance studio and does odd jobs. Unlike the svelte, heavily made-up dancers who are usually Scott’s partners, Fran has freckles and acne and wears large unflattering glasses. She is also tall and solid, not a wisp of a woman who could be blown away on a breath. She begs Scott to give her a chance, which he does, reluctantly accepting her as a kindred spirit. As they practice for two weeks they come into sync, and their movements become beautiful and graceful. Scott has her dance without her glasses, which makes her softer and more submissive in his arms, not to mention uncovering her sweet, open face.
In a tangential plot line, Scott takes up with Fran’s hot-blooded, Spanish family and learns a different kind of dancing from her father and grandmother. Her family is wonderful and real and passionate, compared with Scott’s that is full of false faces and secrets. Fran’s family dances with joy and abandon, while Scott’s is slavishly devoted to the prescriptions of the Dancing Federation. With Fran, Scott discovers true happiness.
Scott’s happiness does not last, however, as his mother and other conspirators plot to pair him with a more acceptable dance partner so he can win. Fran is crushed. Ultimately, of course, love wins the day.
There are two breathtakingly romantic scenes that I play over and over. In one, Scott and Fran dance behind the curtain at a competition, creating a wonderful contrast between their genuine grace and ease in each others’ arms and the showy staccato moves of the competing couple. In the second, Fran and Scott are walking together after spending the day with her family, and share their first kiss.
This Baz Luhrman film is set in modern day Australia, in the blue collar neighborhoods of a big, smoking, industrial city complete with trash in the streets and trains in the background. Imagine someone turning loose a tractor trailer of sparkling, jewel-colored, rainforest birds against this dingy gray background. That’s what happens when these average joe’s and josephine’s trade-in their work overalls for flashy ballroom dancing costumes and mirror balls. Baz Luhrman is well known for his over-the-top sets and costumes (think Moulin Rouge and Great Gatsby), and though this is one of his earliest projects it doesn’t disappoint. If you like romance and happy endings, if you think Romeo and Juliet should have overcome their differences, if you think beauty can glow from a sweet spirit even if the face is not perfect and a handsome prince can love her, this movie is a great choice.