Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Strictly Ballroom...

Cross another need-to-see off the list, I've seen Strictly Ballroom!

Strictly ballroom

Plot synopsis: A champion dancer defies convention and dances his own way! Only even if that doesn't sound too exciting, watch it anyway because it's a lot better than that.

What was good:
Stand up Mr Baz Luhrmann! This is the first part in his "Red Curtain trilogy", along with Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. Ignoring R+J, which didn't really fit as well, this could be seen as Moulin Rouge on a smaller budget. Certainly it had all the glamour, the excellent use of music and colour, a well handled romance and that certain wackiness which infects both films and takes both to another level. It was either his first film or very close to it (can't be bothered to check), and it sparkles with the promise of his later vibrant offerings. Like Moulin Rouge and R+J, it makes the tiniest, most insignificant plots (secret love, secret love and, er, well a secret love) seem like epic fights for something meaningful. Watch Strictly Ballroom, and I defy you not to get caught up in precicely how important the struggle is. You feel like you've gone through a religious experience, when actually you haven't. Watch out for the final scene and draw Moulin Rouge comparisons (the show continues while the supporting cast of heroes and villains battle it out).

I want to reiterate - my two least favourite movie plots are the two most often used. The first is Dead Poets Society, Sound of Music, Nanny McPhee, Mona Lisa Smile - repressed people meet non-repressed person and their lives change for the better! The second is Bend it Like Beckham and Billy Elliot - person wants to do something, but are prevented by parents. The only excuse in my mind for reusing an old plot is if they do something new with it. So in the first case, School of Rock escapes for being witty, quotable and non-slushy (they turn the too-often cheesy moment of confession into a pedophile joke...). In the second catagory, Strictly Ballroom evades tarnish because somehow I didn't notice the cliches.

Our lead was suitable gorgeous, the dancing was great (I don't dance, but it looked good to me...) and he could act well enough as long as he didn't open his mouth. It was spoilt when he did that. But the real stars were the supporting cast. The film is set in one of these worlds in which, by surreal exaggeration of the other characters, our hero seems to be the only sane person. Like in Brazil and Donnie Darko, surrounded by people with shallow priorities. Think Kitty Farmer wailing "Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!" and you'll get the mood straight away.

It is pretty exessive, but if you've ever been to any sort of stage or dance class (I said I didn't dance, not that I didn't go to the classes...) you know precicely how realistic the petty squabbles are. Our family laughed hearty laughs in response to the comment that Fran couldn't dance with Scott because she was still a "beginner" in the hierachy of the school, despite being able to dance very well. We're involved in our local acting-music-dancing club, and you really would not believe the bitchy politics which go on. And believe me, just being able to dance/act/sing does not make you "a champion". You do somehow have to lift yourself from scum-status. Don't ask me how, because I was there for five years and despite being confident and talented as anyone, I never managed it.

Extra kudos again to our Baz, for using his usual tricks: those wonderfully strange shots where baddie-people seem to fill the camera, the beneficial powers of over the top coincidences (none of the three stories would actually have happened if not for a very well timed accident of once sort or another), the beneficial power of, in fact, simply being over the top.

And tenmillion out of ten for the opening sequence, filmed in mockumentary style, which i won't spoil for you know but is EXCELLENT!

What was bad:
While I said it didn't seem cliched, there was one point at which it did so. Fran...the curse of the ugly girl! Now what a suprise, she turns out to be beautiful! Gee, didn't see that one coming...

I got a tad confused by who had double crossed who in the backstory, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the film so don't hold it against it.

And it took us about15 minutes to work out whether Fran's family were Italian (I certainly thought it was a bad idea for Scott to go in and interrupt their family party...), Greek or Spanish. We managed to clear it up by the end, and yes people, they are from SPAIN. Is Fran a Spanish name?

Best Moment: Scott alone in the studio, dancing "his steps". Sent shivers up my spine. Or his dad dancing alone in the studio. Either...both!

Was it good? Very impressive for a first was Baz's first film, wasn't it?

Recommended for: Anyone who has ever been at a dance school, or indeed acting school, anyone who loves the rest of Lord Baz's work, anyone who wants to become a director
Don’t watch if you: have just been passed over at dance school (it'll make you so bitter...), don't know how to suspend your disbelief.

All in all, 3.5 out of 5. Because it was above the average for a good film. ANd I'm trying to cut down on fours, and Wild Bunch and American Beauty are both on this week, so I might need them. Not that my parents will let me see American Beauty of course...a girl can dream.


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