As many of you may have noticed from my recent reviews, I have been watching a number of movies about dancing, the majority of them from the 80’s period. While I’ve enjoyed musing over the various formulas of other 80’s dance movies (Footloose, Flashdance, to name but a few), the dance flick I enjoyed the most was “Dirty Dancing”(1987), starring the late, great Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Its premise may seem to be run of the mill and twee, but I love it for its simplistic nature and the sheer chemistry between the lead actors (although they’re rumoured to have immensely disliked each other off the set).
The story concerns Frances “Baby” Houseman( Jennifer Grey), a sweet but somewhat sheltered high school graduate who’s vacationing in Kellerman’s resort in Catskills Mountains with her parents and her flirty, vapid sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) in the summer of 1963. While trying to avoid the attentions of Neil ( Lonny Price), the snobby grandson of the resort’s owner (Jack Weston), Baby discovers that the staff often partake in surreptitious late night dance parties. It’s there were she develops a crush on hunky, yet charming dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze).
Disaster strikes when Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), Johnny’s dancing partner, becomes pregnant, and decides to illegally terminate the pregnancy. Baby offers to step up and take Penny’s place in time for an important dance contest, and soon she and Johnny are getting closer in many ways. However, she finds herself torn between her budding romance with Johnny and her close relationship with her overprotective doctor father, Jake (Jerry Orbach). Will true love prevail? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out…
“Dirty Dancing” is a movie where the potentially tired and cliched story line is given added zest due to the number of dance sequences in order to give the format a new lease of life. There are moments within the movie which verge into corny territory (namely the “nobody puts Baby in the corner” scene towards the end), but for others, that’s just part of the movie’s charm. In fact, when I saw a musical production of “Dirty Dancing” a few years ago, the audience went absolutely bananas for that line!
Jennifer Grey delivers a brilliant performance as a young woman on the cusp of adulthood who grows up over the course over the story. I found it amazing how she could go from playing a sassy, rude high schooler in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” to a well intentioned, naive maiden. Patrick Swayze additionally proves that he could tackle romance comedies on top of his more notable action roles.
All in all, I’d allow kids aged 13 and up to see this movie, as they may be ready for some of the movie’s more mature scenes, such as Penny’s subplot. “Dirty Dancing” earns 4 out of 5 stars, as it consistently manages to be entertaining without dragging. I had a fantastic time while watching, and I owe it all to the actors, and the songs, naturally! Happy viewing!