Dirty Dancing (1987)
Directed by Emile Ardolino.
With Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Cynthia Rhodes, Jerry Orbach, Jack Weston, Jane Bruker and Kelly Bishop
Fully understanding the enduring appeal of a film like Dirty Dancing requires a certain shift in viewing perspective. Emile Ardolino’s film isn’t particularly well written, at times it’s shoddily edited and for the most part is woodenly acted. So what’s all the fuss about? The answer – the feel-good factor.
For any young girl growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Dirty Dancing might well have swept you off your feet. It had all the right ingredients; the relaxed holiday-camp location, risqué dance moves, Patrick Swayze’s ripped torso, the father-daughter tug-of-war and a memorable 1950’s/80’s soundtrack.
In many ways Jennifer Grey’s ‘Baby’ was the the female equivalent of Luke Skywalker to a generation of young girls. Spirited and adventurous, she sets out against her parents wishes to discover more about herself amid an underground movement of experimental dancing and sexual awakening. Make no mistake, though, the film isn’t gratuitous. Sure there’s close contact grinding in the early stages, but nothing today’s generations won’t have seen a thousand times over in your average Beyonce video. No, this is a film with good intentions and for the most part, its heart is in the right place.
If ever a case were to be made for something being greater than the sum of its parts, then perfectly fits the bill. The truth is, the uninitiated might fall either side of the fence. This isn’t a sophisticated film by any stretch and the dialogue, although often quoted and fondly remembered by many, is akin to that of your average daytime soap opera. The performances are also surprisingly shallow and when called to, Jennifer Grey struggles to emote while Patrick Swayze seems slightly ill at ease as Johnny Castle. However, it’s the non-dialogue scenes in which the two leads manage to soar. The dancing is well performed and choreographed and the obligatory 1980’s montage clips and musical numbers are what give the film its beat.
When the end comes, it’s pretty easy to scoff at Dirty Dancing for its overly-played cliche and telegraphed plot points, but it survives outside of what it is, cherished in the hearts of many who hold it dear and for a good reason. It makes them feel good. Something has to be said for that. 3/5