Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Film Night - Shall We Dance?

This week, Fiona Harper continues to wax lyrical about her love of dance movies. There's something about all those unspoken emotions being expressed in movement that makes dance a magic ingerdient in romantic movies. Shall We Dance has a wonderful blend of humour, emotion and fabulous dancing - and an ending that doesn't go down the obvious route.

In this film, Richard Gere plays John, a man who seemingly has it all - the wife, the kids, the fabulous house - yet he wants more. Only, he doesn't know exactly what more is - a sentinment echoed by his wife Beverley (Susan Sarandon) when she's trying to think of something to get him for his birthday. John just doesn't know what he wants.

One evening on the way home from work, he spots a beautiful woman staring out the window of Miss Mitzi's ballroom dancing school. He's drawn to her because he can see the same longing written all over her face. A couple of days later he jumps of the train and finds himself signing up for a course of ballroom lessons for beginners.

The supporting characters in this film are fabulous, each with their own sense of wanting more, each with their own goals and journeys to go on. Miss Mitzi, who keeps liquor hidden in a cupboard in the studio to keep her going, has lost the joy of teaching. Paulina (Jennifer Lopez), the beautiful young teacher, has lost her joy of dancing. Link, John's colleague, is tired of pretending to be a macho sports nut and secretly wears fake tan, fake teeth and a wig to dance in. His dream is for the world to accept him as a man who loves dressing up in sequins and doing the rhumba.

At first, John thinks he wants Paulina. It would have been so easy for him to fall into the unoriginal trap of having an affair to deal with his mid-life crisis. Thankfully, Paulina has more than enough sense for both of them. She tells him not to bother coming to the classes if she is his goal. He should only come if he wants to dance. And John discovers he does want to dance. It gives him joy. Pretty soon he's rehearsing in secret with broom handles at home. And as John learns, his growing friendships with the motley assortment of characters at Miss Mitzi's start to bring him that indefinable 'something' he's been looking for. But he daren't admit to his family what his secret passion is.

Meanwhile, Beverley is starting to get suspicious. He's lying about where he is after work and comes home smelling of sweet perfume. Desperate, she hires a private detective to discover the truth. And, as John rehearses for a dance competition with the rest of the students, his secret life is uncovered.

Everything comes to a head on the night of the big dance competition. John's wife and daughter come to watch and when he discovers they are in the audience he fouls up - too embarrassed and ashamed to keep going. It's not all bad news, though. Linc finally throws off his wig and false teeth and dances, proud to be himself. The moment he did this and returned to the floor with his partner to dance a swaggering Paso Doble, I actually clapped and cheered out loud as I was sitting on my couch. It's a fabulous movie moment.

Now his wife and family know about his secret ballroom habit, John refuses to dance again. He tells Beverley that he was ashamed of wanting more when he already had so much and was afraid of hurting her feelings if he admitted to not being happy. Finally, she knows what present to get him. She buys him a beautful pair of dancing shoes and tells him to go to Paulina's farewell party before she leaves for England; she'll be working late at the department store, anyway.

John does get dressed up in his dinner suit and shoes, but he doesn't turn up at the party. He surprises Beverley at work and tells her that he can't dance without his partner - her. Cue much wailing and snuffling with tissues at this point - at least in my house. Finally, John has worked out how to combine his new passion with his old life and everything - including his marriage - is revitalised. Sigh.

I love all the little stories that run throughout this film. Each character has their own journey and their own happy ending. And there are some lovely themes and sentiments that run throughout the story. John, in his voice over a the beginning of the film, talks about his job as a will writer. He says he fills out all the legal stuff and his clients invariably say: "Is that it?" "That's it for the paperwork," he replies. "The rest is up to you." I loved watching John figure out for himself what "the rest" was for him throughout the course of the film.

And I especially liked Beverley’s words to the private detective. She says people get married because they need a witness to their lives, and by marrying someone you are promising to care about everything they do, you are saying, "Your life will not go unoticed, because I will notice it." And once John learns to let Beverley be the witness to his life - all of his life - he finds the elusive something he has been looking for.

Look out for Fiona's latest release, Saying Yes To The Millionaire - the Summer Bride in the Bride For All Seasons series. To learn more about all the blushing brides in the series, visit our Bride For All Seasons blog!

When cautious Fern Chambers is challenged by a friend to say yes to every question, she never expects to spend four days with dreamy Josh Adams in a charity treasure hunt!

Saying Yes To The Millionaire is available now at
eHarlequin and Mills&Boon, and will be available in the shops in June!


  1. Yes, I cried in the same spot as well, as he comes up the escalators and then they dance. It was a lovely romantic film.

  2. And it's Richard Gere. Mmmmmmmm. Lovely.

  3. Fiona

    I loved this film too, went to see it with my oldest son (who's 15 and man enough to enjoy a chick flick from time to time, bless!) and I was really bowled over by the fact that they didn't take the easy way out and let John have an affair - which would really have peed me off because let's face it, if any guy would cheat on Susan Sarandon we're all in trouble.

    Also, I really enjoyed the dancing, Richard Gere really looked as if he'd just learned to dance, not too polished, but passionate - and that much more exhilarating to watch because of that slight awkwardness.

    Great choice.

  4. I keep wanting to see the original of this one and compare. The PI by the way is the same guy that does tire commercials here in Canada!

    There is one where he's on a plane thinking he's used his airmiles (ostensibly built up from purchases at Fountain Tire) to go to Hawaii and the guy beside him tells him they are going to Winnipeg.

    Coincidentally, this film was shot in part in Winnipeg.

  5. Oooo love love love this movie Fiona!!! And the escalator scene is one of the THE most romantic sexiest shots in movie history. Richard Gere. In a tux. With a rose. Yuummmmm...

    That shot even gets to my husband who would rather watch paint dry than sit still through a chick flick.

    Great choice!