Monday, May 16, 2011

'Dirty Dancing' Open Thread

  What did you think?


  1. This is one of my wife's all-time favourites. I haven't actually sat and watched it all, but I saw quite a bit of it last year when I copied her rackety old VHS onto DVD so she could take it with her on her hen night. (Do you use that term? Equivalent of bachelor party for wives to be, if not...) It went down well, I believe...
    I think she's seen it, at a conservative estimate, roughly ten million times. I'll see if I can coax her into leaving her thoughts on it here!

  2. Matthew -- I think it's usually called a Bachelorette Party here -- at least by women. I don't actually know whether men call it something else. :)

  3. I watched this last night, and it was so fun! I forgot how much I enjoyed this story of friendship, loyalty and growing up.

    For Frances there was so much growth through the story: the realization that the life she had led to that point had been somewhat sheltered, that hard realities exist that she wasn't even aware of, and the realization that there was a part of her that was ashamed to be seen with a guy like Johnny. Of course, ultimately her commitment to him as a friend compelled her to shatter the high regard that her father held of her. That would have had to have been so hard, to have to say, right there before your parents, that you had not been asleep in bed as they thought, but were with this guy Johnny, a guy they did not know or trust, whom they thought had gotten one of the staff girls pregnant and put her up to getting a back alley abortion, and you were sleeping with this guy... that had to be tough. But it was so stand up, a really great moment for her.

    I loved the edge that Patrick Swayze brought to the role of Johnny Castle - a little rough and tumble, a little resentful, but nobody's fool. He knew the score and was negotiating his situation the best way he could. At heart he was a really great guy, and yet a guy that doubted himself and his own value. How huge it was for him to meet this young girl 'Baby', to see how willing she was to help people that were in trouble, even though she didn't really know them. She did it because they were important and valuable to her, not for anything they owned or believed, but just because they were people. She really believed the ideas that her father had taught her, and applied them far more broadly then he was able to apply them himself. Seeing that meant the world to Johnny, and changed the way he looked at himself. Striding back into Kellerman's that last night, risking his bonus to be there, that was all Johnny, but now welded in was the confidence that the young woman had instilled in him. The younger Houseman girl started out as 'Baby', but Johnny spoke of her as Miss Frances Houseman, and from that moment on Frances she would always be.

  4. Your comments are wonderful -- and I loved watching Baby and Johnny both finding their courage and their belief in themselves.

    I have to admit: I'm glad to know that the story is somewhat autobiographical, since I would otherwise find the back-alley-abortion theme rather suspect, rather than the serious underpinning to the love story that is was.

    The music and the dancing are so great in this, I can't believe it's taken so long for someone to get me to watch this! I've heard the various songs for years, of course, but I had no idea how tremendous the dancing was.

    The learning-to-dance scenes were so much fun -- the one with Baby being ticklish cracked me up, but my favorites were the short scenes of Baby practicing bits by herself on the walk back from her lessons.

    I was expecting the love story to be shy-girl-melts-gigolo's-heart, so I really enjoyed the twist that it was Johnny, having been exploited in the past, who was finding it hard to trust, and Baby who did the seducing!

    And the exceptional friendship between Johnny and Penny was a lovely surprise -- his protectiveness felt so genuine, as did the closer-than-family connection they seemed to have, and Swayze's performance there wowed me as much as his scenes with Jennifer Grey.

    I just loved his Johnny -- one moment the completely controlled dancer, the next punishing Robbie for the way he treated Penny, and then so sweet, so tender with Baby. I'm a convert.

    They didn't really work out the resolution to the who-let-down-whom with Baby and her father very well, but I thought Jerry Orbach was great as the dad who has to respond to crises both medical and intensely personal, and balance his disappointments in his daughter with the new strengths he sees emerging in her.

    And there is just so much beauty in this movie -- the physical beauty of the young people, Grey and Swayze in particular, the magnificent scenery, the gorgeous old "main house" of the resort. I could watch it again with no sound, but then I'd miss those great songs!

  5. Yeah, it was fun, wasn't it?

    I can't believe you hadn't seen this before! I thought for sure I was picking one that you were well familiar with and that you had loved for years.

    I had just been thinking about some of the themes from The Magnificent Ambersons, of how time goes by, and thinking back upon the recent passing of Patrick Swayze, and what a great guy he was, so I am really glad to have shared this one with you. Doubly glad!

  6. Guilty as charged. Perhaps my husband’s estimation of me having watched this film 10 million times is a little excessive, but it’s certainly right that my rackety VHS is probably responsible for wearing out the family video player more than any other film of the 1980s. Between the ages of 11 and 14 it was the ONLY film to be watched at a girly sleepover. It had everything: music, dancing, romance.
    The scenes of Johnny teaching Baby to dance are my favourite. “This is my dance frame…” “…spaghetti arms…” I still get cross when Billy comes in and interrupts.
    The fact that I didn’t have a clue in those early days what it meant that “Penny got knocked up by Robbie the creep”, or “he had a dirty knife and a folding table”, just wasn’t important and I didn’t bother to ask my Mum to explain.
    It’s funny now to re-watch it and understand all those things that went over my head. I’m sure thinking back, my friends all perfectly understood but for me I just couldn’t wait to get to the part with Johnny and Baby practicing the lift in the lake.
    I’ve seen this film once (or twice) in the last ten years and writing this I’m reminded of just how many lines still come so frequently to mind: “Take that stuff off your face before your mother sees you” and “You’re getting wet, right?”
    Quite honestly, it’s brilliant. I think it’s time my husband gave it a proper look. The perfect Sunday afternoon film… and I think we're free this Sunday... Matthew?
    I should think it must be very different to watch it first time as a male thirty-something girly-film-sceptic but the 60s holiday camp, the dancing, the energy, the open shirted Johnny AND will she or won’t she do the lift? - cannot fail to bring some pleasure. He’ll deny it, but he’ll like it.

  7. There is much to this movie that makes it a valuable story for me, the relationship between Johnny and Baby, certainly, but what happens between Baby and her father, the growing up and maturing for Baby, the way her father is forced to confront the fact that Baby is her own person, all of that was very valuable to me. Also the changes that occurred in Johnny in how he viewed himself and his view of the possibilities that life held for a guy like him, the idea that there were people in the world who were honest and that cared about other people, who would risk all for someone else, even for a guy like him. Especially.. for a guy like him. The change the realization caused in him was remarkable, never better demonstrated then when he strode into Kellerman's that last night, looked over at Baby, looked her father straight in the eye and told him "Nobody puts Baby in a corner", then took her by the hand and led her up front and center. Dr. Houseman's appraisal of Baby was off base, and Johnny wasn't afraid to tell him so. I loved it too how her Mom jumped in to tell her husband to hold his piece: "Sit down, Jake."

    There was a great deal of love and care that went into the story, from people like writer Eleanor Bergstein, director Emile Ardolino and choreographer Kenny Ortega. They created the vehicle which allowed Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey to excel, and excel they did.

    I very much enjoyed your comments, Angela. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this show with us. It's a lot of fun for us. Come back anytime!