Saturday, October 26, 2013

843. Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Running Time: 94 minutes
Directed By: Baz Luhrmann
Written By: Baz Luhrmann, from story by Andrew Bovell, Baz Luhrmann
Main Cast: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Peter Whitford
Click here to view the trailer


Dang, I've skipped clear from 1994 to 1992, but it was only because "Strictly Ballroom" is streaming on Netflix and I needed something to watch in a pinch. Expect a few more jump arounds between now and the end of the season, as my main goal is to just get the 90s finished off.

It's Baz Luhrmann, so you know the style of film that we're dealing with here, as "Strictly Ballroom" looks a lot like "Moulin Rouge", in that it's characters are, at times, cartoonish and the whole thing is very showy. Paul Mercurio is Scott Hastings, the young, hot shot dancer on the block who has been pegged to win all the year's competitions. However, during a competition, he takes liberties on the dance floor and sways from the traditional steps that would define "strictly ballroom". He loses the competition and his partner, feeling disgraced, leaves him for Scott's competitor, Ken Railings (I loved this character, for some reason). Scott, needing a new partner in anticipation for the Pan Pacific competition (the World Series of the dancing world, if you will) chooses rookie dancer Fran (Morice). He works with her for a few weeks (in what equals out to a pretty fantastic montage) and in the process, the two fall in love. Leading up to the Pan Pacific competition, rumors swirl that Scott will enter the competition and display his new, rebellious dance moves. Meanwhile, Scott's mother (Thomson - in a great performance) and the president of the Australian Dancing Federation, Barry Fife (Hunter), do anything in their power to stop Scott and keep the phrase "strictly ballroom" in the Pan Pacific competition.

The whole thing is very cliche and very predictable. Literally, within the fist ten minutes of the picture, I had the whole movie figured out, as we've seen this formula a thousand times before. What's unique and what probably compelled the writers of THE BOOK to include "Strictly Ballroom" is Luhrmann's presentation. You know, I found myself, at the beginning of this movie, saying to myself "I don't care for Luhrmann's style, it's just not for me". However, I found myself getting swept up in the theatrics of it all. Recently I heard someone use the phrase "pure cinema" and while I didn't stick around to get the text book definition of the term, I think it's pretty obvious what it means and I think Luhrmann's pictures (notably "Moulin Rouge" and "Strictly Ballroom") are perfect examples of what that term stands for. Whether they're for me or not is a different story, but I can definitely say that Luhrmann's pictures are the text book examples of what a night at the cinema should encapsulate: showy costumes, boisterous characters and music that doesn't just linger in the background. These movies are loud, but not too loud and the word "grand" also comes to mind. They're in your face, but for the most part, you welcome it. Luhrmann obviously has a penchant for entertaining and it's hard to deny him the title of master entertainer, again, whether this was for me or not. And if it wasn't fully for me (which it wasn't, not fully), I fully accept the responsibility and don't place any blame on anyone else.

Seriously though, these characters were just too good to be true. What was it about Ken Railings that I loved. I loved his deviousness, his wicked smile and his shimmering, blonde pompadour. Shirley Hastings - the stage mother, had a villainous quality that I couldn't stand, yet ate up with a spoon. And then there was Barry Fife, played by Bill Hunter (who is quickly becoming a favorite, after his performance here and in "Muriel's Wedding"), a heel to end all heels.

There's not much left to say about "Strictly Ballroom". While the characters and the grandeur of it all were welcome and exuberant, the predictable plot and cookie cutter nature of the whole thing was off putting and the general story was just, sort of *meh*. To hinge your entire film on a dancer who is going to DEBUT SOME NEW DANCE MOVES!!...well, it's just a little silly, isn't it?

RATING: 6.5/10  VERY VERY close to a '7', but I found it difficult to bring myself to propel this movie into that upper echelon of film. Still a fine film though, with nearly just as many pluses, as there were minuses.


October 26, 2013  1:01pm


  1. One I really went into determined not to like, but it sort of won me round with the over the top exuberance and rather taking the piss out of the leads.
    I'm not going to say I ended up liking it that much, wouldn't watch it again.. but..


    1. I think our opinions are similar then, on this one. I didn't expect much out of it myself, but ended up liking it well enough.


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