Shall We Dance?

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Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, J-Lo, and Fancy Footwork: Shall We Dance? (2004)

Oct 11, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great dancing choreography, neat music, awesome stars

Cons:Sarandon's role is underplayed, and somebody almost cheated on somebody else.

The Bottom Line: Shall We Dance? is a beautiful display of an underappreciated art.


Shall We Dance? is exactly the kind of movie I'd never have bothered to see if not for #1, the fact that it was sneak previewing and I've never been to one of those before and #2, Mom wanted to see it.

Richard Gere is a man whose career is replete with dramas such as Unfaithful and Red Corner with some being courtroom-based, like Primal Fear and Sommersby. But every now and then, you'd see him in an unexpectedly lighthearted flick such as 1999's Runaway Bride or 1990's Pretty Woman.

Although Shall We Dance? is a dark film to the eyes, it is not so to the heart. The majority of the movie revolves around a nighttime setting, or a duskly lit dancing room, but when the feet started moving, I actually got choked up. I got choked up watching people dance, like I were some 60-year old guy who never partook in any such thing in his life.

It is just so beautiful to watch the way two people can move together. I can't think of another skill in this world that requires so much teamwork. Almost any other type of dual performance will reveal even in the smallest way that one is better than the other. When it comes to dancing, the contribution from both parties is so well balanced, and each person depends so much on the other to stay together. You know, like love, I guess. If there be competition, no competitor stands alone.

Richard Gere plays the role of John Clark. John helps people to make their wills official. Thousands of times, he has heard the question, "Will that be all?" and of course, wondered that very thing himself.

As he takes the subway home every night, John can't help but notice a young lady, Paulina (Jennifer Lopez) staring out the window from the 2nd story of a passing dance school. In an effort to meet her (or so you'd assume), John signs up for dance lessons. Ballroom dance lessons, even.

Now this is all well and good except for one minor little complication... Johnny boy is married. (Cue the Jaws theme) Beverly (Susan Sarandon) starts to wonder why he's been working late and his clothes are all smelling like perfume. And of course, he's not telling her about the dance lessons, either because he's embarrassed or because he wants to surprise her. I'm inclined toward the latter myself, and I think it's almost intriguing the way the film refrains from delivering a cut and dried answer as to why exactly he doesn't tell her.

But that's enough, that's more than enough about the plot. How the wife deals with the situation, whether John survives the dancing classes, how it all goes with Paulina, that's for you to discover.

Every player on the board did an outstanding job with his/her role. Susan Sarandon is a bit underplayed as John's wife, but that aspect of the story has been done so many other times that it wasn't entirely necessary to elaborate on it. Husband is coming home late, we don't need ten minutes of the wife sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee to know how she feels about that.

Shall We Dance? never misses a chance to refrain from telling us what we already know. Ergo, the pace is quite fast, jumping right into the first dance lesson sooner than you think. Vigorously but gracefully, it tunes us in to the lives of the secondary players, of which there are many.

Foremost among them is Paulina, whose past is as dark as her clothing. I always thought J-Lo was a pretty decent actress, but I had NO idea she could dance like that.

John is joined by two fellow students. Vern (Omar Benson Miller) is a Hefty Hefty Cinch Sak guy who's taking dance lessons in an attempt to lose some weight for his fiancee. For a guy his size, he sure can float like a butterfly. Chic (Bobby Cannavale) is the hot New Jersey man who's just doing it for the ladies.

Stanley Tucci is that one face. The one that sticks in your head long after the drive home. He plays a new dance student who appears later in the movie, but under his wig, he hopes not to be recognized. With the wig, he looks like Ozzy, without it, he looks like the guy from Vertical Horizon. He is just sensational.

Two dance teachers, Bobbie (Lisa Ann Walter) and Miss Mitzi herself (Anita Gillette) round out the dance school scenes with high-heeled vigor. It feels almost like these three ladies just bumped into each other on the street one day and decided to start a dance school. Lisa Ann reminded me of Jennifer Tilly in Liar Liar, seemed like she was always ticked off at somebody, but in a very funny way. Anita Gillette sneaks in a few drinks but never skips a beat, and possesses that "sweet old lady with a funny bone" charm.

Too often, I thought the film was going to pursue a possible or even fleeting romance between Gere and J-Lo. Fortunately, it is nipped in the bud and forged into a respectable relationship just in the nick of time. I'm no big fan of the old-guy-meets-young-girl fad going around, and I have, in the last year, gained a lot of respect for the whole concept of marriage and what it entails. So I'm just glad that it played out the way it did.

You wouldn't think Richard Gere could dance, but then I think you'd be surprised. The man's got mucha charisma by the end of this movie. You might just say he gets to be a dancer and a gentleman.

Shall We Dance? is rated PG-13 and runs for 106 minutes. I don't see how this would appeal to kids of any age, unless they were huge dance/J-Lo fans.

Even you guys out there wouldn't be completely killing yourselves to take your girlfriends to it; it's a humorous tale.

Shall We Dance? is the gong that signifies Fall has officially arrived, be that what it may to you.


Recommend this product? Yes

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