Strictly Ballroom (1992) (PG)













Baz Luhrmann's debut film is nothing but bizarre and fun. It has the randomness of Mel Brooks and the restraint of Terrence Malick.
Scott Hastings is a ballroom dancer who is competing in the Australian Pan Pacific Competition, one of the most prestigious dace competitions. After his rival forces Scott and his partner into a corner during the latin dance; Scott does a daring thing and starts to dance his own moves—he improvises. This is not acceptable because only dance moves approved by the federation are allowed so Scott and his partner don't win.
Crushed by Scott's hasty decision, his partner dumps him and plans on going to the next competition with someone else.
Now Scott's mother is distraught and his teacher is upset...what will he do?
Cue the run down looking girl from every movie who will undoubtably be one of the best dancers in the world....bingo. Fran works at the dance company where Scott trains, she sweeps the floor and feeds the fish and turns off the lights. etc. But she would like to be a dancer so when try outs begin for Scott's new partner she, unblinkingly, goes up to Scott and asks to be his partner. He turns her down at first but she talks him into giving her one hour and then seeing how things go. He does so and immediately sees what the audience knew all along, she is a quick learner.
What "Strictly Ballroom" keeps from doing are the age-old cliches: girl looks ten times better without glasses, girl is an expert immediately, boy falls in love with her as soon as he sees her in a skin-tight shirt—none of these are put to screen in "Strictly Ballroom". That's not to say that this film isn't without its cliches and corniness.
So Fran and Scott train in secret and plan on showing off their moves at a regional competition but things go awry and that plan falls flat on its face.
Fran's parents seem overly strict at first and they demand to know why she is traipsing around with this young man, supposedly "dancing". It's from Fran's family that Scott learns how to correctly dance the Pasa Doble...yeah I know it sounds weird and it is; but it works somehow.
What's really interesting is how Luhrmann, who also helped with the script, manages to change Scott's character. At first he's prideful and cold, but Fran changes him and it's done subtly and without overt acts like saving her from a car or something else as tacky.
The ballroom numbers themselves are impressive as are the costumes.
The camerawork is somewhat misleading because you think that it's too flattering of the dancers. It seems like they can't really dance that well, but that's not true.
It's all part of the master plan because the last number that is danced convinces you of the two lead character's prowess.
"Strictly Ballroom" isn't a magnificent picture or one that will be remembered for all time but it is fun and I did enjoy it.


Score: 3 out of 4 stars

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