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SHALL WE DANCE - Japan Wins Again!



Full disclosure. Have not seen the Japanese version in some time, so will be lambasting the American version. If these two films were compared to an event in World War II, mentioning the outcome of Pearl Harbor is apt.

The plot of both films is the same.

Burned out husband sneaks out after work (Both male leads spot a dance studio during their trek home on the subway.) to take ballroom lessons with the siren they see looking out the window with a forlorn expression.

John Clark (Richard Gere) works up the courage to register for a series of beginner lessons. Joining him are Bobby Cannavale as Chic, a genuine closet case, and Omar Benson Miller as Vern.

Vern is harboring a secret about his impending nuptials.

Gere, and the rest, are disappointed when forlorn instructor Paulina (JLo) is not teaching their class. No. It is Miss Mitzi herself, and thank God for Anita Gillette in that role. She provides some spark to the proceedings anytime she's on screen.

Also lending a little enthusiasm is Lisa Ann Walter as the somewhat pudgy, but talented amateur competition queen, and a disguised Stanley Tucci, who not only dances at Miss Mitzi's in a horrid wig, but also hits the social dancing circuit where he attempts to pick up women half his age.

And Richard Jenkins, this generation's best character actor, plays a private detective who follows Gere around at the behest of Susan Sarandon (Beverly), the wife of John Clark.

But the film lacks a cohesive message about mid-life crises; love between married couples gone stale; and the redemptive qualities of learning to dance ballroom, an art form that REQUIRES a partner. Gere (and his Japanese counterpart) take the lessons in an attempt to jolt themselves back into an appreciation of their world by venturing into another.

As a former dancer, and a newbie to world of ballroom, I can attest to the difficulty of partnering. It requires a synchronization of two bodies. I thought ballet was hard, which it is, of course. However, leading and following allow for NO MISTAKES, or there is a lack of presentation and execution an audience can spot.

So the filmmakers want the viewers to believe Gere can pick up two difficult dance forms (Waltz, Quick-Step) in three months which would qualify him to compete in the Chicago Taittinger Trophy Event. Not possible. Maybe a year, and that's optimistic.

Adding to the confusion is Ms. Lopez, whose grasp of the tango is mediocre at best. She's not a high-end Blackpool competitor.

Save for some hilarious moments with Tucci, Lisa Ann Walter, and Richard Jenkins, there is little to recommend the film. Should you be a fan of Broadway stars, Anita Gillette is always worth a look.

But watch the Japanese version. It explores the angst of the mid-life crisis, and presents some performers (especially the male lead) who can really DANCE.

Shall we?

HBO












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