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Strictly Ballroom [RSC Film Club 43]


LimeGreenLegend
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This month's film club selection, nominated by @djw180, is the Australian rom-com Strictly Ballroom, directed by Baz Luhrmann.  This is the first part of an unofficial trilogy, followed by Romeo + Juliet in 1996 and Moulin Rouge in 2001.  

Strictly Ballroom movie poster | NFSA

The film sees talented dancer Scott Paul Mercurio) team up with beginner Fran (Tara Morice) as no one else will dance with him due to his unconventional style which has seen him denounced by the Australian Dancing Federation.  I've not seen this before, but having had seen Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge I'm expecting something bold and brash and oozing with style and energy and melodrama.  

Strictly Ballroom GIF by Kitpak

i'm not dancing with you 'til you dance like you're supposed to

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Posted (edited)

I own a copy of this because it came free with a DVD player I once bought. I looked at it and thought why would I want to watch a film about ballroom dancing? A couple of years later, having seen Romeo+Juliet and realising it was the same director, I finally watched this. I think it is a brilliant film. You don't have to have any interest in ballroom dancing. All you need to be able to do is accept there might be some people for whom it is the most important thing in the entire world and they take it very, very seriously. Like Baz Lurhman's later films it is a full of music and dancing (obviously), but with a much lower budget it's not as flashy and glamorous.

 

 

Edited by djw180
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Like @djw180 said you don't need to have any interest in ballroom dancing to enjoy this, just as you don't need to have any interest in professional wrestling to enjoy The Wrestler, and I enjoyed this a lot.  Right from the start where we get mockumentary style talking heads interviews in the vein of This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show etc I was in.  It's a little disappointing that they seem to drop this after the first few scenes, but they make up for it in other ways.  I wasn't expecting this to be so much of a comedy.  The whole first act is pretty much a slapstick farce, even the drama is pushed up into the realm of high melodrama to great comedic effect.  When Fran (Tara Morice) is properly introduced the film becomes more of a drama, but it still retains a light tone which fits the film perfectly.  Morice is brilliant as Fran, even though her character follows the trope of ugly girl becomes hot when she takes off her glasses and does her hair.  Paul Mercurio as the lead, Scott, isn't that great of an actor, but he has a brooding intensity to him that the film plays up, again for great comedic effect.  I love the scene where he learns how to do a proper passo doble from Fran's brother.  The build up to the big finals was fantastic, and the moment when Scott slides on to the dance floor had me hyped like I was watching Rocky.  You can immediately tell that this is a Baz Luhrmann film from the start where we get a set of red velvet curtains opening, very theatrical.  This film also has that hyper stylised editing that you also find in his subsequent films, really wringing every drop of drama from every scene.  This is a fun, flashy film with a feel good ending, what's not to love.  9/10

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

As I said when I nominated this, I got a copy free with a DVD player I bought, didn't think much of a film about ballroom dancing so never watched until a couple of years later when I had seen other Baz Lurhman films. I really like his films and although this, his first, lacks some of the over-the-top glamour of his later films he still has the same elements.

It's the story of young ballroom dancer Scott, son a of a couple of great amateur dancers who now run a dance school in Sydney. Scott is very good, the boy all the girls want to dance with and his mother has high hopes he is going to win this year's “Pan Pacific Grand Prix”. But at a lesser dance competition Scott infuriates the judges with his “non-regulation, crowd-pleasing steps” and his mother's hopes take a hit. His partner dumps him, numerous others try out but fail to hit the mark and meanwhile Scott and beginner Fran, who believes in his unorthodox dancing, are planning to dance together at the Grand Prix. But others high up in the local dance scene have a very different plan for who is going to win the Grand Prix and they don't intend to play by the rules.

The opening is great, the way the actors' movements and interactions are clearly choreographed along side the actual dancing. There is some great editing, something I am not usually able to comment on, but early on there is great scene where Scott's now ex-dance partner says she wants “Ken Rawlings to walk through that door and say Pam Short's broke both her legs and I want to dance with you”, cut to woman in a car crashing out of control, cut to Ken Rawlings walking through the door and saying exactly what she wants him to then cut to a pair of little kids saying “Well that was unexpected!”.

It has some slightly surreal elements which are good. The spotlight following Scott and Fran around the practice dance floor when there is clearly no one else with them to be operating it. Also the scene where the truth about Scott's parents dancing history is shown with same actors playing their characters 25 years younger, with a lot of make up and wigs. The music is good, I always like an 80s based sound track, but also good is the way the background songs sometimes say what the characters are thinking.

As someone who isn't into ballroom dancing, I have to say there are a couple of great dance scenes. The one where Fran's father and Grandmother warm to Scott and decide to teach him how to do a proper Passo Doble and then the finale is great with everyone, young or old, goodie or baddie, getting up and dancing.

I agree with Lime that Paul Mercurio as Scott isn't that great and they do over-do Fran's ugly-duckling transformation a bit.

Overall it's just a great story about something that, at the end of the day, is not actually that serious, but played out as if it were some spy thriller with the protagonists battling to save the planet, as for these characters it is that important!

 

9/10

Edited by djw180
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