DIRTY DANCING (1987) 

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Patrick Swayze
Jennifer Grey
Jerry Orbach
Cynthia Rhodes
Kelly Bishop
Jane Brucker
Max Cantor
Wayne Knight

Emile Ardolino




Time: 96 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Romance

Won Academy Award for Best Original Song.

I'm embarrassed to say that if you had asked me in 1987 what my favorite movies of the year were, DIRTY DANCING would have been one of them. In fact, I paid to see it several times. Looking back on it, I can understand why a young girl would be so entranced with this story – ugly duckling becomes swan and gets to dance and make out with super sexy dance teacher. I watched it again recently to see how out-dated and silly the film had become. What I discovered through this experiment is films that touched you as a youngster will always hold magic for you – no matter how unbelievable and over-acted they truly are. Everything about this film is overdone, from the story to the acting, but it still managed to catch my heart. What young woman, or slightly older one, can escape the secret yearnings in her soul to be loved for her true self by such a hunky guy? To be turned into a "princess" or, in this case, a beautiful dancer while finding first love with your sexy, dangerous instructor? Of course, if this happened in real life, especially in the 50s, Mr. Swayze's character would have found himself in jail for having sex with a minor faster than you can say mambo, especially since he was one of the help.

The story begins with Frances "Baby" Houseman trying to fit in with the cool, sexy dancers at the Catskill resort her parents drag her and her older sister to every summer. Only this year, Baby is old enough to start having sexual urges of her own and her yearnings are pinned on the lead dance instructor, Johnny Castle. (Can you believe it?) When Johnny's dance partner gets accidently knocked up, in order to save their jobs, Baby steps into her dancing shoes and becomes Johnny's de facto partner. She begins intense dance training trying very hard to learn all the steps, but it's not easy. Plus all their lessons must be done secretly because if the management found out what was going on everybody would be in a whole heap of trouble. The help was not supposed to socialize with the guests and if caught, Penny and Johnny would be fired. With very little time before their secret performance, Baby and Johnny spend every free moment rehearsing. Her ineptness infuriates him, but she stands up for herself and doesn't let him push her around. Of course, they fall for each other in the process.

"This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don't go into yours, you don't go into mine. You gotta hold the frame."

The night of their performance finally arrives and all goes as well as can be expected. When they return to the hotel, they find Penny in excruciating pain from her visit with the abortion doctor. With no where else to turn, Baby gets her father, a doctor, to help Penny. Baby is forbidden to spend any more time with those people, but does she listen? Of course not. She does the one thing her father would hate more then anything else in the world...falls in love with and sleeps with Johnny. The film then descends into a pseudo class war subplot, which gets more than a little tiresome. I didn't pay for a lecture about why some people are better than others, I want to see dancing and love. It's no surprise that Johnny is fired for his affair with Baby. What is surprising is that she doesn't get punished as well. In fact, her losing her virginity is flaunted as a good thing, as a step on the road to independence and womanhood. You won't see that happen very often in the world of cinema. Yes, she gets in trouble with her father, but that was going to happen eventually anyway. At least it was over a tryst with a sexy older man instead of something silly like red nail polish or missing curfew.

I can't see why anyone would sit through this movie in this day and age. It has it's funny, romantic and sweet moments, but overall it's extremely hokey. The acting is at times so earnest it's annoying. The soundtrack is one of the only things that is still pretty decent...mainly because the music used was already classic. DIRTY DANCING is a fun trip down memory lane, but I'm glad I don't have to stay there.

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