Dirty Dancing (Film) Review

75a592215a946b7dc1f570f895143dbfI’ve been feeling a little burnt out of late, so this month Jill and I decided to opt for a Free-for-all with a Summer flavour to keep things light.

I have the week off work and honestly, I couldn’t be happier about it. We’re not holidaying this year due to lack of vacay funds but really all I want is reading, writing, eating and lying in time with the man I love. I’m definitely a simple girl with simple tastes, which leads me nicely into this ‘review’ of a film that really needs no introduction at all.

*Spoilers* as always, but really, if you haven’t gotten around to watching this in almost 30 years, will you ever? (I hope you do, truly).

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Director: Emile Ardolino
Stars: Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Jerry Orbach

IMDB Synopsis: Spending the summer at a Catskills resort with her family, Frances “Baby” Houseman falls in love with the camp’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle.

My Review:

As Jill said to me before we both settled down for a re-watch (separately, unfortch), “Objectivity is just not happening for this one” and that statement completely nails the experience of ‘reviewing’ such a well-worn favourite. I love this movie with the fire of a thousands suns and I can’t really see it in anything other that rosy gold light.

It’s the Summer of 1963, and Francis “Baby” Houseman has just arrived at Kellerman’s, a family holiday resort in the Catskills mountains. She’s a right daddy’s girl with her heart set on the Peace Corps. Meanwhile, her sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) is glamourous and bitchy.

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Why so serious?

I really don’t need to break this one down but Baby discovers the camp’s underground ‘entertainment’ scene and falls in with a ‘rougher’ crowd AKA the dancers. Her moral compass leads her to seek help for Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), a former Rockette who’s found herself in a tricky situation (knocked up) and left in the shit by the scumbag father. Her decision not to turn a blind eye puts Baby in a precarious position with her own father, who has her on a pedestal.

At first, the cool kids don’t want Baby’s help, nor her company but she sticks with them, even filling in for Penny at a dance gig at another hotel. Although Baby has been brought up to help people wherever she can, there is an ulterior motive and that motive is Johnny Castle (the late, great Swayze).

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Men’s nipples amuse me too

It’s basically lust at first sight and who can blame the 18-year-old Baby for wanting a piece of that? (I’m not sure any man has ever looked as good in a skin-tight black t-shirt). To begin with Johnny has nothing but disdain for our heroine, who clearly hails from the right side of the tracks and knows nothing of the life he knows. And he sure as heck doesn’t respect a person who runs to her father when the going gets tough. Or so he thinks.

The film would have been much shorter if this opinion didn’t change and the two of them didn’t fall in love but luckily for us all, they do and Swayze’s forced to eat his words. Not only does Baby teach him valuable life lessons, she also teaches him how to value himself and it’s a beautiful thing, it truly is.

So, Penny has a back street abortion and Baby saves the day by outing herself to her father who can’t forgive her for hanging with the faster crowd (or can he?). Doctor Houseman fixes Penny right up without shaming her for her actions, though he heavily judges Johnny, as the man who got her into this mess (and for now, the wrong man).

You mostly all know what happens next so I’ll spare you and move onto my thoughts instead.

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It’s not all training montages round here, you know

My Thoughts:

I admire Dirty Dancing for not pussy footing around the topic of abortion and for not judging, really. This seemed progressive for the eighties (and for being set in the 60’s) and stood out amongst other admittedly great but less dark eighties movie themes.

There is a sense of slut-shaming, of Penny and the ‘Bungalow Bunny’ Vivian Pressman (Miranda Garrison), who pays Johnny for sex. This is almost entirely by Robbie and the Management, all male (of course) but Baby looks at these women with fascination, which falls in line with her own burgeoning sexuality. I remember gazing at glamorous women in the same way as I grew up and shed my child-like wonder.

Baby doesn’t judge Penny when she finds out she’s pregnant, nor does she judge her sister when she decides to go after the same man, Robbie the Creep (Max Cantor), though she tries to talk her out of it.

And, while Baby is aware of the differences between her world and Johnny’s, she isn’t condescending. She thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread and only ever encourages him to seek a better life for himself. At the beginning of their relationship she shows astonishing maturity and doesn’t criticise him too harshly for being kept by the sugar mummies who swarm to him.

Eighteen year old me would not have been able to control my jealously, nor trust in my own powers, so I love how comfortable Baby is in her own skin, and at such a young age. She makes the first move with Johnny sexually and that scene in his cabin is still one of the hottest ever. Dude sure could move.

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“Wooooooo I’m an aeroplane!”

I love the father-daughter scenes, which break me if I’m honest. Although Doctor Houseman is ferociously against the man he thinks Johnny is, he realises soon enough that he’s been backing the wrong horse. It wouldn’t have hurt him to actually apologise to Johnny though, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong” is not “Sorry”, Doc. You can do better!

I also love the scene in which Lisa and Baby finally understand one another and of course, the end of this film is pure perfection. I wouldn’t change a thing about this movie; dance montages, soundtrack, Jennifer Grey, Swizzlestick’s hip action: all just as incredible as they ever were.

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Yes Swizzle

My Rating: 100/5. The best. I might watch it again, right now.

Did this revisit make Jill want to cha cha cha or will she be boycotting Kellerman’s from now on? Find out here, obvs!

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Tootsie (Film) Review

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How cool is the Polish Tootsie poster? I want this framed

Before we begin I have a couple of confessions.

First off, I’m not sure if I’ve seen this movie. That’s unthinkable really considering it’s so far up my street but there it is. I think it’s one I thought I’d seen and I may have watched bits, but I don’t remember the whole film.

Oooopsy.

And B) I fancy the panties off Dustin Hoffman. I mean, hello – he looks like he’d be a riot (in the boudoir!), right? RIGHT?!

As always *spoilers*, although I’m sure the chances of you being the only other person on this planet who hasn’t seen Tootsie is rather slim.

Okay. Let’s do this.

Tootsie (1982)

Director: Sydney Pollack
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray, Dabney Coleman

IMDB Synopsis: Michael Dorsey, an unsuccessful actor disguises himself as a woman in order to get a role on a trashy hospital soap.

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“Excuse me! Which one of us has the waviest hair do you think?”

My Review:

Michael Dorsey, Actor is something of a diva and no one in Hollywood is willing to work with him anymore. Except, of course they don’t use the ‘D’ word because he’s a man, so he’s known as a ‘perfectionist’. Nevertheless, his acting gigs are drying up like liquid liner in the sun.

Michael’s just not getting work and things are starting to look serious when he helps out his friend Sandy on an audition for a soap opera. She goes along to try out for the part of Hospital Administrator Emily Kimberley on Southwest General but doesn’t get it because she’s not ‘tough enough’. (Oh girl, I hear ya).

Although you have to wonder if ‘not tough enough’ is shorthand for not hot enough (yawn).

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I could learn a lot from Dustin and his fierce make up skillz

Although Sandy is distraught and just about ready to quit the city and her dreams of acting, Michael hits on an idea – and boy, what an idea! He’ll audition for the part himself as Dorothy Michaels (see what he did there?!) – proving he will make it in this town after all, even if he has to be someone else.

During her brief non-audition – Dorothy is told by sexist pig Director Ron Carlisle that she’s not got the right ‘look’ for the part (I knew it!) – she shows a real spark in retaliation and this saves her. She wins the part thanks largely to the female Producer, who appreciates Dorothy’s sass. They work around the fact Dorothy isn’t exactly a traditional beauty (my how they drive the point home).

By the way, the off-set/studio shenanigans are stereo-typically eighties with staff members smoking in the control room (Strike 4 for our Smoking Films Month) and men in positions of authority being horribly handsy.

Woman are treated like prime rib, the word ‘slut’ is bandied about casually (even by the women about themselves) and they’re lumbered with ‘cute’ nicknames, hence the title of this film: “Tootsie”.

Emily Kimberley quickly becomes a household hit, especially with a female demographic when she plays the part ‘feisty’ and refuses to put up with this schtick. She answers back and even improvises some of her scenes. One particular sees Emily thwack Commandant Lassard from Police Academy (1984) (George Gaynes) over the head when his character, a lechy old doctor, tries to kiss her. It’s well received amongst the female cast members, to say the least.

Ginger was really enjoying herself on her 77th Spice Girl Reunion Tour

While this is all going on, Michael/Dorothy is becoming close to his co-star, Julie; lives with his mate Jeff (on a side note, they’re also trying to get a play off the ground) and has started having it off with Sandy.

The latter seems to only have taken place to cover up his new identity as Dorothy, and although it’s casual between the two, Michael has yet to come clean to Sandy about the role of Emily, and how he won it. Especially when she bitterly criticises the actress now playing the role she lost.

The role incidentally proves so successful for the soap that, much to Dorothy’s dismay, her contract is renewed for another year.

I don’t want to go back, back, back and forth on the entire plot but Dorothy and Julie do become incredibly close. Julie is sleeping with Ron BTW but also has a young baby by someone else. She’s treated horribly as you can imagine. Her Director’s also got his eye on beautiful ingenue/expert underwear wearer April (Geena Davis), who he’s been snogging on the side.

The original cast of Thelma & Louise was very different

Dorothy has also caught the eye of an admirer herself, in the form of Julie’s dad Les (Charles Durning) who’s actually pretty adorable. He proposes to D, which is all shades of awkward. It gets worse when Julie dumps Ron (inspired by her new friend) and Dorothy misjudges the situation, and tries to kiss her.

Julie is understandably freaked out but is still kind to Dorothy, telling her that she really does mean the world to her but that she just cannot right now. Especially not when her dad’s feelings are on the line.

This prompts a final scene with Dorothy as Emily Kimberley that will change the course of their relationship forever, and maybe even the tone of the soap opera too (you don’t get this on Eastenders).

MWAHHHHHHHHHH!

Questions: 

How long can Michael keep being Dorothy? How will Julie handle the kissing situation, or the fact her new BFF really isn’t who she says she is?

Will Lovesick Les ever get over his inevitable heartbreak?

How cute is Bill Murray in his skeleton t-shirt? How great is Sandy’s fringe?

And will Ron Fucking Carlisle ever sort himself out (ditto: Jon Van Horn?), those sexist buffoons?!

My Thoughts:

I obviously loved it because that’s what I do. I love eighties movies. When I mentioned on Facebook that I’d never seen Tootsie before, my BFF David was shocked – “But it was literally made for you!” – and he’s kind of right.

It’s not perfect by any means and maybe I’m looking at it too harshly but I do find it sad that it takes a man being a woman to stir the feminist pot on this soap opera. Of course Dorothy is a great influence on the new women in her life and they begin to fight back themselves but it’s a shame it took a male protagonist to get them there.

However, this film was made in the eighties and it’s pretty great to see gender roles challenged in this way (back then).

I do think the whole concept of befriending someone by pretending to be something they trust is super creepy, call me old fashioned. I know it’s innocent here and that Michael would never hurt Julie but still. I’d find it very hard to forgive.

That said, as above, it’s a great to have a man witness for himself the bullshit standards by which women are held up. To find himself ridiculed for not being beautiful, for being fat, all those wonderful flaws women have held against them – finally!

As a fun piece of cinema with all these elements put aside, it’s sweet. I love the soundtrack too (It Might Be You by Stephen Bishop is lovely).

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“I think I preferred working with the giant monkey.”

My Rating: 4.5/5. The 0.5 is lost due to the ending (too too easy Michael).

What did Jill think of this eighties baby? Shimmy on over to see for yourselves.

I Used To Love Him: Michael Jackson (AKA Teenage Idol)

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“Hey spider, you’ve got a Michael Jackson stuck to your butt…”

Who did you idolise as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end? Via The Daily Post (January 11th 2016)

Justin Bieber? How young do you think I am?! (*Fluffs hair*).

It’s been quite a pressured week, so I’m taking time out to do a blog prompt because sometimes I like to seek inspiration rather than think for myself, alright? So sue me.

Obviously this week we very suddenly and shockingly lost a true legend in the shape of Bowie, and the world is still reeling. I haven’t seen this much widespread grief since Diana (or the person I’m about to wax lyrical about) and it’s incredibly sad.

It’s made me think on and off about heroes growing up, personal influences and how they mould us as young people and how we carry them into adulthood, like pretty, shiny talismans (men?).

I was obsessed with Micheal Jackson from a very early age. Like OBSESSED. Every video, album, film starring my boy – I was all over it. My Mum made me a ‘Bad’ birthday cake and there were MJ themed parties. I even convinced the girl next door, who was terribly uncool and ate only oranges and peanut butter, that I was named after my hero.

“Michael can be a girl’s name too, you know” is what I’d haughtily respond when she questioned me. I wish my name had been Michael to be honest but alas, my parents were not major fans themselves nor mind readers.

I would lie in bed at night with my Walkman plugged in, lip syncing the Vincent Price bit at the end of Thriller to myself. I knew all the words to Liberian Girl.

Man in the Mirror actually did make me look inside myself and ponder if I really needed to change. I decided the answer was no, I was only ten and perfect as far as I could see. 

Alas, my hero did some heinous things that caused his shine to all but extinguish. I won’t rehash those things here, nor will I deny them because I believe the accusations are true. There’s no defense and no amount of love for a former idol, who carried you through the awkward years into adulthood, that can excuse what he’s done.

My hero was messed up and then he messed up very badly. I think even before he died I’d forced myself to move on because good people don’t hurt the vulnerable, they don’t hurt anybody, even if they themselves seem vulnerable and childlike.

My ultimate hero wasn’t going to be a bad man even if he was Michael Jackson, King of my Heart. The first man I ever loved who wasn’t my father.

I can’t remember how I processed all that but I must of because by the time he died I was very sad but accepting. It had seemed only a matter of time, judging by his frail outward appearance and rumours of drug abuse. And again, how could I forgive him?

I still feel sad for the loss and that I’ve never felt the way I did about him since, about anyone. No more idols for me.

Actors and Musicians I like very much, sure but nobody I’ll ever pretend to be named after.