Shall We Dance
For those who don't know, this is an Americanized remake of a 1996 Japanese film, which means that it took Hollywood an astonishing eight years to figure out how to rip the heart out of a small and generally insignificant film. Normally, Hollywood can rip the heart out of something in just a few seconds by hiring a few incompetent writers and casting David Spade.
The original was about a Japanese accountant who discovers an escape from his predictable existence by learning the fine art of ballroom dancing. The remake is about John Clark (Richard Gere) and his wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon). He's a lawyer and she's a fashion executive. They live in a very swank Chicago suburb. Instead of driving his car into town (or being chauffeured, given how much money he and his wife probably make), he rides the El. The reason he rides the El is so that he can see Paulina (Jennifer Lopez) staring pensively from the window of Miss Mitzi's dance studio.
Apparently, making a few hundred thousand dollars a year, looking like Richard Gere, and having Susan Sarandon as your wife leaves a quarry-sized hole in your heart and only ballroom dancing can fill it. See, this is precisely what Hollywood doesn't understand about the concept of heart-warming stories. When you populate plots with Hollywood royalty, the story takes on less relevance than Mary-Kate Olson at a Weight Watchers convention. It's called an "everyman" for a reason. The audience is more likely to identify with a space alien than with Richard Gere.
Further gutting this story's soul is a supporting cast that rivals the freak show at a circus. Quickly, the film becomes less of a contest of ballroom dancing and more of an experiment to see how many B-list actors can be quirky enough to get a shot at a best supporting actor nomination. Stanley Tucci's lawyer character wears a wig and heavy make-up while dancing. Chic (Bobby Cannavale), a fellow beginning dancer, talks about how many women he's going to bed with his new skill (a sure sign he's gay). Bobbie (Lisa Ann Walter) is a loud-mouthed, somewhat experienced dancer who is desperate for attention. John is just trying to find himself.
During this movie, I wanted to find myself too… outside the theater.
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