Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Review: Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing (30th Anniversary Screening)
Cert: 12A / 98 mins / Dir. Emile Ardolino / Trailer

Okay, let's get something straight once and for all…

Dirty Dancing: Nobody's In The Corner

It's been the elephant in the room (the corner of the room) for thirty years now…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
I'm actually not sure. This has found its place as one of the definitive chick-flicks, but that label feels like damning with faint praise. There's more to the film than the disposable, idealistic fluff which makes up so much of the genre, yet at the same time I didn't find it as impactful as it could be (because a well-made film is a well-made film, irrespective of genre or target-audience). Not that I actively disliked the Dirty Dancing, I hasten to add, just that I couldn't really connect with anything that happened in it.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
This was a 30th anniversary screening so it's not like the option's really out there, but a) I enjoyed it more than the various stretches I've seen on TV because in-the-cinema is how the film was meant to be seen, and b) there was quite the audience present for this; it's clearly still got some cinematic pull (one-off screenings of Ghostbusters, Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting in recent years didn't attract anywhere near as many people).

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
So have you ever watched a movie and thought 'ooh, this is dated', despite not really having seen it before? And even though it's meant to be a 'vintage' setting anyway, but the things which have dated the most are the visual flourishes from when it was made, not when it's set? It occurred to me watching Dirty Dancing that all my favourite movies from the late 80s are either action or comedy-oriented, and have seem to have worn more smoothly as a result. It has to be said, both the soundtrack and the dancing have aged very well here; the melodrama and the cheese, far less so. It's difficult to fathom the audacity of a screenplay revolving around a character called Baby Houseman, who is neither a baby, a house nor a man.

And how come the film opens with her diary-narration, then that's never used again? That always pisses me off.

Mind you, in the finale where Johnny brings that record and hands it to his cousin to put on, the clear implication is that he's got a copy of that actual 1987 song in 1963, with all its late-80s overproduction. I'd thought that maybe the track itself was just a metaphor and in-story, Johnny and Baby could be dancing to anything. But then Johnny starts mouthing the lyrics. Which implies he's got a time-machine knocking around somewhere. Presumably he locks himself out of that at regular intervals, too.

Also, once the iconic song kicks into its first verse, the sound of the audience clapping-along has been dropped over the top. This happens around a second before the camera cuts to show the audience sitting motionless. The band have started clapping, but there's only about four of them. Now bear in mind, the sound mixer has put this in, knowing full well it doesn't sync with the visuals. It's hard enough to believe in this shit as it is, without also having the film-crew working against me...

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
I haven't seen Jennifer Grey in much other than Ferris Bueller to be honest and I've managed to largely avoid Patrick Swayze's work. As noted above, both are great at the dancing here (which is the point of the movie, to be fair). But whenever the script requires Grey to engage any level of emotion, she just starts raising her voice until she's bellowing flatly at whoever's two feet away from her, and Swayze is just shocking any time he opens his mouth (although I admit that the script holds partial blame for this).

So, best-remembered? Yes.
Best? No.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shouldn't think so, otherwise I'd have been berating a hell of a lot of people on the way out of the auditorium. Although Mrs Blackout noted with some amusement that at one point, the guy sat next to me had his arms folded in exactly the same way as I did. Like we'd both been dragged along against our will. For the record, seeing this at the cinema was my suggestion, okay? Besides, John Wick 2 doesn't open until Friday...

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Although I'd have slotted one in during the scene where Johnny's lamping that Robbie, conspicuously managing to avoid planting a single mark on his mush. I suppose even in the heat of battle, they're thinking 'No, despite our differences, we're all Redcoats and the face is off-limits'. Which is precisely the sort of do-gooding boundary-setting nonsense that means Petulant Patrick will never really win a fight, and will have to go flouncing off again in his polyester slacks and Cuban heels...

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film's got the magnificent Jerry Orbach in it, and he popped up in the Cheaters episode of The Golden Girls starring Bea 'Ackmena' Arthur.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…
I didn't hate it.
Although I probably won't bother watching it again.

Genuinely delighted that you love it, though.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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