Shall We Dance, is the American version of "Shall we dansu?" which was a successful Japanese film. The plots differ slightly, because the American version tries to tone down the passion of the main character, and instead focuses more on the relationship between him and his wife. Richard Gere plays that main character, an estate lawyer, who has found his life to be lacking the fun he once had experienced. He doesn't detest is wife, nor does he dislike the situation he is in. Rather, he feels guilty for having so much, and still wanting something more. One day, while riding the train home from work, it passes by a dance studio with a lonely, beautiful woman standing by the window. It catches his attention, and each day after, he looks for the woman in the window. Each day she is there, and something draws him to getting off the train, and walking up to the 5th floor dance studio.
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Convinced to sign-up for ballroom dancing lessons, Gere's character (John Clark) begins secretly attending weekly sessions. His intrigue with the woman from the window, combines with his desire to find something new and exciting in his life, and he quickly realizes that he actually does like to dance. That along with some of the ending sequences are reasons why this movie was good, but I found a lot more low points than highlights with the film and here is why. Jennifer Lopez was cast as the sultry secondary ballroom teacher, who is mainly used as an example for how to dance correctly. Having gone through a recent bad spell in her life, she is lost without dancing, and finds her only contentment in being on the dance floor. As an audience we are expected to console her because of what she has been through, but at the same time, I think the character is seeking too much sympathy, rather than standing on her own two feet.
Susan Sarandon plays John Clark's wife, in a performance that I found to be very underwhelming coming from her. Such a strong female lead in movies, Surandon is hard to see as a wife that won't even question he husbands late nights, and won't confront him even when she suspects the worst. Watching her in the role of a submissive wife, not willing to cause waves, really didn't seem to fit her style of acting. I loved her in movies such as Thelma and Louise, where she wouldn't take anything from anybody, let alone stand idly by while she was wronged. The only way for the script to work though, was for her to stay quiet, and for the movie to be able to build up to a bigger climax. I wasn't able to overlook the miscasting of a great actress here, nor was I able to overlook how badly the characters surrounding the leads were also developed.
With the exception of Stanley Tucci, who was a co-worker of Clark, and a fellow dancer, there is barely any development of what I thought to be important roles in the film. All of the supporting characters are given sub-plots within the story, and reasons for the way they act, but we aren't given the opportunity to complete our opinions or judgments on them before we are spoon-fed our emotions. Bobby Cannavale, Lisa Ann Walter, and Omar Benson Miller are all wasted in cookie-cutter roles that could have been acted out by extras rather than people with acting talent. By the end you are supposed to care about everyone involved, but it is often difficult to show emotion about characters you know barely anything about. John Clark was almost overdeveloped in his role, but we are taken along as he progresses, and it is interesting to watch him learning how to dance. This does make the ending interesting, but the movie never quite catches up to its own idea of a man improving himself. As a movie I give this one 2 stars, but it is interesting enough to watch, or rent if you don't have other options.
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