Shall We Dance? (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/02/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Well made, nicely acted, enjoyable film, if you can ignore the occasional stupidities in the plot.

If you’ve seen the trailers for Shall We Dance? you could be forgiven for thinking that the story revolves around a romance between Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. This is not, in fact, the case: the film is actually a pretty faithful adaptation of the 1996 Japanese hit, directed by Masayuki Suo.

However, while the film is unquestionably better for that decision, there are other elements of it that don’t really translate very well, leading to some frankly laughable plot developments that threaten to derail the film.

Happily Married Lawyer Seeks To Break Routine

Directed by Peter Chelsom (Funny Bones, Serendipity), the film stars Richard Gere as John Clark, a happily married Chicago lawyer who’s bored with his daily routine. On his way home from work every night he passes a window where he catches tantalising glimpses of a beautiful woman, so one night he impulsively gets off his train and investigates. The woman turns out to be a dance teacher named Paula (played by - surprise! - Jennifer Lopez) and before John knows what he’s doing he has signed up for ballroom dancing classes.

Bizarrely, however, John decides to keep his nocturnal activities a secret from his wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon), so naturally, she suspects he’s having an affair and hires a detective (Richard Jenkins) to follow him around. Meanwhile, John bonds with his fellow classmates (including Bobby Cannavale from The Station Agent) and finds that dancing has given him a new lease of life. Will he tell his wife before the big dancing competition? Well, what do you think?

The main problem with the film is that there is simply no good reason for Gere not to tell Sarandon about the classes. This is partly a translation problem - in the Japanese film there were valid cultural reasons, but here it just doesn’t work. Belatedly, the script has Gere tell Sarandon that the reason he didn’t tell her was that he was “ashamed of wanting to feel happier”, but this is laughable, because we’ve seen the way he was checking out Lopez in the beginning, not to mention their scorching hot tango scene.

Some Laughable Plot Elements

Other elements of the film are equally laughable, such as Paula’s “troubled” flashbacks to a ballroom dancing competition in Blackpool... The script also throws in some shocking sops to Richard Gere’s vanity, with characters declaring that his sweat smells sweeter than everyone else’s. In addition, a gay sub-plot appears to have been either drastically cut down or hastily thrown in - at any rate it’s clumsily handled.

That said, if you can get past the occasional dodgy plot moment, the film is actually quite enjoyable, although once the potential romance is defused, Jennifer Lopez’s character is so subdued as to be barely noticeable. Gere is excellent, particularly during the dancing scenes - it’s tempting to believe he took the role as a result of criticism of his dancing in Chicago.

There’s also strong support from Sarandon as well as the likes of Richard Jenkins and Bobby Cannavale. However, the film is completely stolen by Stanley Tucci as a vain, Latin-dancing-obsessed colleague of Gere’s who learns to wean himself off his dependence on a wig and fake tan.

To sum up then, this is an enjoyable film with the odd Bad Movie Moment, although the goodwill built up from the likeable performances is enough to prevent the film from falling on its arse, so to speak. Worth seeing, especially if you were hooked on Strictly Come Dancing.

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Shall We Dance? (12A)
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Content updated: 17/10/2017 10:54

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