on January 9, 2007
The plot of "Strictly Ballroom" isn't overly complicated, but somehow its director, Baz Luhrmann, managed to make the kind of movie that leaves you smiling, and wanting to watch it again. This film doesn't give you a lot of food for thought, but it is pure unadulterated fun, and that is a lot :)
The main character is Scott (Paul Mercurio), a ballroom dancer who is tired of the steps that others taught him, and wants to dance his own steps. Due to that, and to the fact that he starts to do exactly that in a championship without talking about it with his partner, Liz (Gia Carides), she leaves him. For Liz, the matter is simple: she wants to win, and Scott's new steps aren't the way to do so. The president of the Australian Dance Federation, Barry Fife (Bill Hunter), expresses the situation quite well when he says that "Well, of course, you can dance any steps you like! But that doesn't mean you'll...win".
It is after that chaotic and interesting beginning to the film that the try-outs for Scott's new couple begin, the "judges" being his extremely emotional mother (Pat Thompson) and his ballroom dancing professor (Peter Whitford), both professional ballroom dancers in the past. Unknown to them, though, Scott discovers in Fran (Tara Morice), a frequently overlooked woman who is merely a beginner with lots of spunk, the person who he wants to dance with, even if he has to teach her himself. After all, Fran's motto, "A life lived in fear is a life half lived", goes well with Scott's philosophy that is dancing that matters, not winning.
All in all, I can sincerely say that I loved this movie, and that I deeply regret missing it in 1992, when it was released... Truth to be told, "Strictly ballroom" isn't overly popular here in Argentina, and it is rather difficult to find a copy to rent. Fortunately, and thanks to the recommendation of a friend and a new videostore, I could watch it today. I enjoyed the story, the music and the great performances given by the actors, as well as the wonderful ending that allowed me to keep on smiling after a while even after finishing the movie. Of course, I highly recommend this movie to you!.
on October 26, 2002
If you missed this Australia gem, don't fail to get it when it comes out soon. The Aussies are rabid about their ballroom dancing, and this movie pokes gentle fun at their obsession with classy wit that is incisive and yet endearing. The whole movie is stocked with super performances in this tale of the ugly ducking turning into a swan simply because she wants to dance ballroom. The characters, editing and delivery of all the actors keep this on the cutting edge that make it one you will want to view again and again.
Absolutely one of the best!!!
on March 14, 2003
One of my favorite films is STRICTLY BALLROOM. The 1992 sleeper hit directed by Baz Luhrman is a gem. This was Luhrman's first feature film as director before going on to direct the hugely popular "Romeo + Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge."
Luhrmann cleverly uses a documentary style opening and interludes which pull you into the film and make you quickly form bonds with the loveable characters on the way. The storyline follows Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio), one of Australia's great hopes in the competitive world of ballroom dancing. Surrounded by dance, Scott's parents own a small dancing school, those around him live for the dream that Scott will win the Pan Pacific Championship trophy with dancing partner Liz (Gia Carides.) Surely the most enthusiastic for Scott to achieve ballroom greatness is his mother Shirley, a former dance champion herself, who's iron determination and fraught ambition fills the air with tension, very much the antithesis of her husband Doug who is timid and all but mute. The road to starlight stardom is rocky for Scott who's passion for dance and natural talent means he wants to escape the strict rigours of the ballroom rules. Scott wants to dance his own steps - Scott is a rumba rebel. As those around him panic that he will be too individual for the rule-bound ballroom world, his chances of success seem distant as his regular dance partner leaves. There only seems to be one person who believes in Scott's vision, Fran the ugly-duckling dance pupil. Fran's own love of dancing is equally as perplexing to her family. From a traditional Spanish family with strong dancing bonds they will not accept that ballroom is anything more than mickey mouse dancing, a mutilated form of 'real' movement.
Ballroom dancing, a pastime that is ridiculed by many may not seem the obvious choice for a feature film, but "Strictly Ballroom" elevates it status to a new level. One of humor and admiration. The film takes the sequins and dusts them with glitter. The dresses are flouncy, the hair is bleached and the tans are permaglow but it is done with such affection, such humor you know the director actually has the upmost respect for this dazzling community and takes that admiration and transforms the film into a small masterpiece.
Without doubt Paul Mercurio (Scott Hastings) has a wonderful and brooding presence throughout the film. Possibly not since John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever has a dancing man on screen set the heart fluttering as much. Remarkably graceful, manly and sexy - here's a leading man you want to literally sweep you off your feet. He comes across with great passion. Tara Morice as Fran also turns in a superb performance. Thanks to careful direction and use of costume and make-up her transformation from ugly-duckling is not as crude as in so many other films, there's no stereotyped secretary with a bun and glasses scenario here. The whole character of Fran revolves around subtlety and growth with Morice brings across very well. The supporting cast all deserve credit especially Scott's parents, Shirley played by Pat Thompson (Strictly Ballroom was her last film before her death) and Doug played by Barry Otto. ntonio Vargas stars as Fran's father Rico and in reality is a well respected Flamenco dancer and actually worked as the dance trainer on the film.
Films rarely come more feelgood than this. It is as happy and loud as the dancers sequined dresses. It is pure glitter on a the screen and a film to lift the spirits. Highly recommended!
on February 11, 2004
I must admit, it took me approximately 20 minutes to actually get into this movie. I so wanted to shut if off, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt and decided to give it more time. I am extremely happy that I did.
While this is not a 'masterpiece' as 'Moulin Rouge', it is definately VERY good. The acting was stupendous. The actors made me feel that the story was very real. In a very 'slight' way, I was reminicant of 'Dirty Dancing'.
Scott is this Awesome ballroom dancer who does not adhere to 'Strictly Ballroom' rules. He loses a major competition due to his unorthodox dance moves. His overly dramatic dance partner dumps him right before another major competition, and poor Scott is left partnerless. In appears an extremely 'ugly duckling' who wants to dance with him. What happens next is ..... well, I guess you should watch it to know the rest.
Overall this was a delightfully lighthearted movie with some poignant scenes that will leave you teary eyed. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
on April 12, 2003
Once in a blue moon, a crowd pleaser comes along that soars the spirit. "Strictly Ballroom" is one of those movies.
Directed in a delicious high-key style by Baz Luhrmann (WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S ROMEO + JULIET, MOULIN ROUGE) in his madcap debut (the first in what would be called the Red Curtain Trilogy), the film tells the story of a top ballroom dancer who pairs with a plain, left-footed ugly duckling, when his maverick style earns him the disdain of his more conventionally-minded colleagues. Together, they give it their all and aim to make dreams of the National Championship title come true.
To say this film is amazing would be an understatement. It is one of the most gloriously entertaining and awe-inducing films ever made. The cast is simply magnificant and Luhrmann introduces his clever, fast-paced directing and editing style here. He brilliantly uses a documentary style opening and ocassional interludes which help better understand the lovable characters. It works wonderfully!
This is definitely the feel-good movie of the decade. It's hypnotic, strange, and deeply heartfelt--a deliciously entertaining crowd-pleaser. A highly recommended must!
on March 10, 2003
This is a wonderful, beautiful movie ï¿½ it is a little mixed, but it all works, with the flat, cartoonish elements which ï¿½Bazï¿½ seems to prefer, conquered by the elements of actual drama and dance.
Paul Mercurio dances very well, and he carries off a variety of routines; he manages the ballroom dancing fine, even though he is more a modern dancer by training; of course, his solo which is interrupted by Franï¿½s approaching him, and steeling her nerves to ask him to dance with her; the laughable ï¿½pseudo-Paso Dobleï¿½ which excites such mirth; and the ï¿½flamenco-in-trainingï¿½ with Antonio Vargas. Tara Morice and Mercurio are a terrific couple, and she does so well with the dancing, few would ever suspect that she was not herself actually a dancer. Vargas is fantastic. And crucially for the movie, Mercurio, Morice, Vargas and Armonia Benedito form the emotional heart of the movie, and they carry it off brilliantly. The unsung genius of the movie, for he serves as a crucial ï¿½pivotï¿½ between this, the ï¿½humanï¿½ element of the story, and the cartoonish ï¿½Bazï¿½ element (the comic-book caricatures which are Barry Fife, Les Kendall and Mrs Hastings), is Barry Otto as Doug Hastings ï¿½ within the confines of ï¿½caricaturevilleï¿½ he is an object of scorn and contempt, and meekly escapes into his own dreams in a number of shadowy solo dance scenes (and impressively plastic in his movements, too). Otto comes close to stealing the scene when his insistence on ï¿½bending Scottï¿½s earï¿½ dispels the fog of Barry Fifeï¿½s manipulative deceptions, at the last instant, when Scott and Liz were just about to go out to the dance floor for the Latin Finals ï¿½ and when his clapping conquers the Un-Music when Fife has pulled The Plug ....
This is a fabulous movie, with some exhilarating dancing, and a great deal of charm. Indeed, it is a great movie, in spite of Baz Luhrmann.
The more we have seen of Bazï¿½s work since ï¿½Strictly Ballroom,ï¿½ with his juvenile obsessions with breasts and sex, the color-blind dependence on gaudy extremes which we are invited to interpret as ï¿½fresh vision,ï¿½ the low-budget ï¿½high conceptï¿½ which The Blazoned Motto is supposed to represent ï¿½ the wonder is, that ï¿½Strictly Ballroomï¿½ succeeds so marvelously well. The answer to this puzzle must lie in the fact that Baz was but a co-writer, and but a co-director of ï¿½SBï¿½ ï¿½ so that the other party must have been the artistically responsible half, who made sure that ï¿½SBï¿½ rose above Bazï¿½s conceptual limitations. Whenever we see something more recent by ï¿½Baz,ï¿½ and gag at its shallowness, we come back to ï¿½SB,ï¿½ and we wonder that he managed to get THIS movie so perfectly right.
Five stars, though you wonï¿½t need to bother with the ï¿½Baz-lyï¿½ commentary, which is about 2% genuinely interesting information about the making of the movie, and 98% empty, self-flattering ï¿½Baz-chat.ï¿½
on February 19, 2003
Being Baz Lurhmann's first major film directing, "Strictly Ballroom" is a delightful modern life comedy about a ballroom dancer (Scott) who has the urge to self-express by dancing his own steps in the ballroom-dancing championship, which, as it can be imagined, is considered to be an offense to the tradition. The film itself is full of dynamics and energy, with swift scene leaping, sometimes very casual camera work that gives you a documentary kind of feeling. Paul Mercurio, who plays the dancer Scott, is a brilliant dancer as well as a fiery actor, and Fran, Scott's dancing partner, is naturally acted by Tara Morice, who, with no short of passion in her dancing with Paul Mercurio, brings poetic beauty and realness to the character. There are wonderful songs and dances through out the film. It's entertaining, it's funny, and more or less, it makes you think about your own life. "A life lived in fear is a life half lived" is the essence of the movie, which I believe is also the motto that guides Baz Lurhmann in his artistic creation. For many years, one after another, he has brought out brilliant works - stage or screen - with freshness and creativity. As much as I respect the traditions, I admire the courage to challenge the traditions. Ballroom dancing can be dull without the occasionally-popped-out rule-breaker like Scott, and so is the realm of art without the genius like Baz Lurhmann.
on October 13, 2002
Hey I can be a cynic too. I have always hated dancing movies with a vengence. But one night while channel surfing and nursing a broken heart, I saw an advertisement saying 'Strictly Ballroom' would be on next. I am also a person who disliked 'Moulin Rouge' and I knew that this was a Baz Luhrmann film. But I decided to watch it anyway. And from the minute it began I was captivated by its dazzling visuals, amazing dance sequences and sweet, if predictable, plot. Hey, I needed a nice romance. The story revolves around potential star ballroom dancer Scott Hastings, who ruins his chance at gold by dancing his own original steps during a performance. His extremely upset partner refuses to ever dance with him again, leaving Scott without a partner to dance at the big Pan Pacifics competition. But his chance comes in an unlikely package, an ugly duckling of sorts named Fran, a beginning dancer. Against all odds, they form a talented duo. I won't say what happens at the end, but it definately left this viewer happy. An Australian off-the-wall delight, this will definately please you if you like Baz Luhrmann or dancing movies (I see this as 'Dirty Dancing' without the annoying actors and convulted plot). And if you don't like either (I didn't), if you enjoy romances or Australian cinema,it's a must see. So get on your dancing shoes, sit back, and enjoy.
on January 5, 2003
The first time we ever saw STRICTLY BALLROOM, my husband and I were at the video store looking at the used videos for sale. The cover looked so racy that we just passed it by wanting to see it first, before wasting our money on another sleazy canned dancing movie. (Had we seen Romeo and Juliet or Moulin Rouge first, we probably would never have looked twice at it).
After renting a copy and seeing it, we were so thrilled that we raced down to the store to grab the copy for sale, but it was gone.
The very beginning of this movie is fresh, new, and brilliantly put together. The humor in the movie has the zaniness of British humor with the hard edged Aussie flair. From the very first few minutes, we found ourselves laughing, clapping, and feeling overall wonderful about the beautifully done story that many can relate to.
A struggling "invisible girl" rather ignored and looked down upon takes a risk and ends up with the self-confident hero. The costuming is gorgeous, the dance scenes beautiful, and the characters are PERFECTLY done - very different and lots of fun.
This movie is certainly a family movie-despite the racy cover. What we particularly loved about this movie was that FRAN, the lead character ended up on top, but did not have to become a sleaze to do it. She keeps her modesty and class and still comes out ahead. The movie is pretty wholesomely done (be warned that there are a few swear words and one implied scene with a few characters-however very tame).
Dance scenes are not like so many other dance movies which are rather annoying. On the contrary, they make you feel like you are involved. All kinds of people, with all kinds of abilities dance in the movie- not just the stars.
I watch this movie several times a year, as does my mom who hesitated to buy a copy when I told her about it. It is reminiscent of quirky Hyacinth Bucket character types (from BBC'c KEEPING UP APPEARANCES) with many new originals added.
This Aussie film is not only a delight, but the characters are believable, and many who we know find themselves watching it over and over again- greatly brightens one's mood. I'm purchasing the DVD soon to replace the video, now worn.
SIDE NOTE: I find it rather interesting that Paul Mercurio, who is a definite delight as the male lead and extremely appealing, does not like this film and wants to distance himself from the whole dancing thing (although he danced for some time before his role in the movie). It is too bad, because this movie is one of the best movies of all time. A TRUE CLASSIC.
on July 10, 2002
I was surprised that the editorial reviews of this film treat it like just another film, which it most definitely IS NOT. I would describe it in various ways: as the film John Waters would give his left HAND to make; as a terrific NEAR-sendup of intense, tear-drenched dramatic dance films like Red Shoes, that doffs its hat to the concept of "camp" without throwing the whole experience away just to stay consistent with the attitude; as a comedy that, if you get the joke, will knock you silly with laughter at times.
There are moments when I wasn't sure which film I was in, as the plot listed toward Flashdance and then Cinderella. But this is the kind of film it is; it embraces operatic emotion and high melodrama, and while it acknowledges the ordinary, it never becomes so. And it communicates beautifully the essential wackiness of all in-bred, inclusive subcultures. (The old guard's constant exhortations to the hero not to give himself over to "crowd-pleasing moves" is hilariously absurd, and at the same time wholly typical of such subcultures, where the most sensible question is always "Who on earth made these up these rules?!")
It is an odd and intense film, one that contantly keeps you off balance, and asking yourself whether to take it seriously or as an elaborate sort of filmed comedy dream (think of Rocky Horror Picture Show). The cool thing is, you never have to decide; you can enjoy new aspects of it on multiple viewings. See it.