Dance film mocks stereotypes

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By Kelly Dolejsi

“Strictly Ballroom” (1992, rated PG) sparkles, struts and shrieks a warpath through the genre of dance competition dramas Thursday at Mesa Public Library.
Writer and director Baz Luhrmann, known also for “The Great Gatsby” and “Moulin Rouge,” brings out all ballroom dancing’s garish best: the thick, horrifying make-up; the gaudy costumes; the tasteless trophy-seeking ambitions.
There is very little joy of dancing for most of the competitors or judges in this film. But amid all the soap-operatic scheming and double-crossing, saunter Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice). They love the steps, the rhythm, the freedom — a freedom that is threatened by ballroom bureaucrats who condemn any novelty on the dance floor.
Sound corny? It is all very corny. The movie lovingly mocks every dance-movie stereotype, from the quintessential dance rebel to the partner who truly believes in him or her. There is nothing new here, but it’s all so fluffy and funny that I didn’t mind at all. And the dancing is pretty good to boot.
“Strictly Ballroom” talks a lot about not living in fear — a good and serious idea — and after watching a silly farce like this, most fears seems equally silly. Life itself seems just as full of overacted, redundant melodrama. Why not rise above and do what makes us happy?
The movie won top honors at film festivals worldwide and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture — Comedy/Musical.
Stop by the library’s upstairs meeting room theater at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for a free film, some pretzels, and a guaranteed pick-me-up.
The screening is brought to you by the Free Film Series, which offers screenings on the first Thursday of each month thanks to Friends of Mesa Public Library.
For more information, call the library at 662-8240.