Shall We Dance (5/10)
by Tony Medley
Wells took a terrific bestseller, Under the Tuscan Sun (2003),
and changed it into an unsatisfying polemic. Now sheís taken a
pleasant story, first made in Japan as Shall We Dansu (1996), and
turned it into something without credibility. John Clark (Richard Gere)
is an attorney with a loving wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon), and two
loving children. Riding home on the Chicago El, he sees Paulina
(Jennifer Lopez) looking forlornly out the window from a dance studio.
He goes in for dance lessons without telling his wife. Is he hitting on
Paulina, or not? Is he trying to be unfaithful or not? If so, why?
Well, maybe thatís
not so bad because what Wells is trying to say, however clumsy her
effort, is that dancing brings meaning back into Johnís life. But
whatís really unbelievable is that John and the two other guys in his
dance class can, after only a few lessons, enter a huge ballroom contest
and dance like stylistic professionals. Impossible.
One thing this film
has done is confirm that I was right about Chicago (2002).
It was clear to me that Gere was no dancer, that he was made to look
like a dancer by expert cinematography and quick cuts. Everyone else
gushed about what a great dancer he was. Well, I saw him on Live With
Regis (Philbin) & Kelly (Ripa), and he admitted that he
couldnít dance, that the tap dancing in Chicago was merely him
executing 10 second segments, and that he had to train for four months
to just learn how to waltz and tango for Shall We Dance. Finally,
Kelly asked Gere to tango. The time on the tango is
slow-slow-quick-quick-slow. I donít know what Gere and Kelly were
doing on the show, but it wasnít the tango. Gere was just running her
around the floor without paying attention to the beat or the time. He
trained for four months to learn the dances for the movie and still
I can dance, and the
waltz, for which Gere said he trained four months, is the easiest (and
best) dance in the world. The beat is so dominant, that all you have to
do is count the three-fourths time, slow-quick-quick, slow-quick-quick,
and youíve got it. The waltz you see in this film is not your
standard, simple waltz, certainly nothing a beginner could perform.
disappointment in this movie is the choice of music. A dancerís music
has a good, heavy beat. When Iím dancing, and Iím not a natural, I
listen closely for the bass, which is keeping the beat. In Shall We
Dance the beat for much of the music is difficult if not impossible
to hear, certainly not music for beginners.
But itís not just
the contrived dancing and unbefitting music that spoil this movie. Wells
and Director Peter Chelsom insert an uncalled-for lesbian scene in one
dancing sequence, which is completely out of place in this film. As
supererogatory as this scene is, another is so unnecessary it boggles
the mind. Beverly has hired
a private detective to find out why John is coming home so late when
heís not at the office. She pays in advance and he subsequently gives
her his report. Case closed. No, wait! She arranges to meet him in a bar
to tell him she doesnít need him any more. She shows up looking like a
floozy trying to get some action, with a blouse thatís unbuttoned down
to her navel and her cleavage bouncing and flashing him in the eye. It
looks like sheís trying to get picked up, but, no, she just tells him
she doesnít need his services any more and leaves. What? Why
couldnít she tell him that on the phone? Why meet him? Why dress like
a slut? This is a scene with absolutely no meaning.
This movie drags on
for 106 minutes. I was looking at my watch every ten minutes. Thereís
just not much of a story to tell here. And, like Dirty Dancing:
Havana Nights (2004), there isnít enough dancing to captivate you.
The dancing we do see is pretty quick and itís that stylized ballroom
stuff that you see on PBS. Thatís never looked like fun to me. Itís
nothing like what Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did to wow the world in
Why do they keep
casting non-dancers in dancing movies? Non-dancers survived in Chicago
as a result of masterful directing and cinematographical tricks. But
if Iím going to see a dancing movie, I want to see real dancing
accomplished by real dancers. How would you have liked West Side
Story (1961) if Meryl Streep and Steve McQueen were cast in the
roles of Anita and Riff, played by Rita Moreno and Russ Tamblyn, who
were both real, professional dancers? Or Singiní in the Rain
(1952) with Clark Gable as Don Lockwood instead of Gene Kelly?
Not much, I imagine. So why do they continue to cast Gere in dancing
roles? Surely thereís someone in Hollywood who can dance and act at
the same time?
is a beautiful woman, and I guess she can dance, but you donít see
much of it here. If youíre a dancer, or like to watch good dancing,
this is very disappointing. Unless you are a big Richard Gere fan, Shall
We Dance is only moderately entertaining.