Save The Last Dance (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/04/2001

3 stars out of 5
Running time: 112 mins

Likeable teen romance that overcomes its inevitable predictability thanks to its talented cast and its avoidance of both clichés and syrupy sentimentality.

Julia Stiles (Ten Things I Hate About You, State and Main, Hamlet) stars as Sara, a seventeen year-old aspiring ballet dancer who rejects her dreams of getting into the prestigious Julliard Dance Academy after the death of her mother in a car crash (for which Sara blames herself, as her mother was on her way to see her Julliard audition).

As the movie begins, Sara relocates to Chicago to live with her estranged father (Terry Kinney) and quickly discovers that she is one of only a handful of white kids at her new high school. Fortunately, Sara is swiftly befriended by Chenille (Kerry Washington, who looks a little like X-Men’s Halle Berry), through whom she is introduced to both the local hip-hop nightclub, and Chenille’s brother Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), and when Derek offers to teach Sara some hip-hop moves, the two find themselves falling in love, despite the disapproval of their peers.

Meanwhile, with Derek’s prompting and encouragement, Sara rediscovers both her love of ballet and her dreams of applying to Julliard. With a plot this simple, it’s not too hard to guess how it all ends up.

Luckily, however, though the story may be overly familiar from films such as Flashdance, Dirty Dancing and any number of teen romances or ‘ghetto movies’, director Carter manages to move the story along without ever resorting to either the expected clichés (e.g. a territorial drive-by shooting ends in a pleasingly undramatic manner) or the over-scored syrupy sentimentality that usually accompanies such things. As a result, the ‘big’ emotional scenes in the film carry that much extra weight for being relatively underplayed.

The acting is spot-on: Stiles and Thomas make an appealing couple, and there’s excellent support from Washington, Kinney, Fredro Starr as Malakai, Derek’s trouble-seeking best friend, and Bianca Lawson as Nikki, with whom Stiles has an impressively realistic catfight!

If the film has a flaw, it’s that the ballet sequences are edited in such a way that leaves you in no doubt that Stiles needed a ‘ballet double’, with lots of cuts between her upper torso and ‘her’ legs. That said, the final ‘contemporary piece’ audition sequence is superb (this time Stiles does her own dancing), and this more than makes up for the sub-standard ballet scenes.

In short, then, this is pretty decent as these things go, and while probably not destined for ‘the Dirty Dancing of the Noughties’ status, it’s still an agreeable Friday night ‘date movie’. Worth watching.

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Save The Last Dance (12)
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Content updated: 21/10/2017 03:44

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