Projections - Movie Reviews

Save the Last Dance Save the Last Dance

Using dance as a path to salvation, Save the Last Dance delivers an on screen chemistry between its two stars that is utterly remarkable.  Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas deliver performances that surpass the script and direction in this feel good movie aimed at the teen market.  This is not Girlfight or Billy Elliot, but for a January release, more that you should expect.

Stiles portrays Sara Johnson, a teen forced to attend school in a Chicago ghetto due to the death of her mother.  Her dream had always been to dance and after a failure to be accepted to Julliard on the same day as the death of her mother she abandons her life's passion.  Now forced to live in the ghetto with her father (Terry Kinney), Sara befriends Chenille (Kerry Washington), a single teen mom, and Derek who is an aspiring pediatrician when his high school career ends.  Finding herself as one of the few white girls in a predominantly black student population, these friendships are a cornerstone to rebuilding her life.

Derek begins his relationship on a somewhat awkward note, but as the two begin to explore and learn about each other, an attraction grows.  This attraction comes from Derek's attempts to teach Sara hip hop moves and attitude.  The budding romance touches on the bias of inter-racial relationships, but misses the real mark and follows the safe film formula of returning Sara to the more classical pursuit of Ballet and a "love will conquer all" attitude.  The “feel” of the street is missing here and the dangers that inner city children face daily is only brushed by, including what could have been some real drama when Derek is almost forced into a street war.

What saves this film is the ability of its stars to rise above a weak script and deliver lines in a believable fashion and not as clichés.  Their natural comfort on screen and genuine chemistry allow you accept that Hollywood is avoiding any attempts to shock or challenge its target teen audience and it is simply following a simple formula of boy meets girl - love follows - all ends well.

In short, Save the Last Dance is watchable, but ducks the issues and never becomes the film it could have been.  Hopefully, Hollywood will learn that the teens of the world are up for a challenging film; they know or need to know how the world is and won't shy away from a film as a result of a lack of glamour or a real world feel.

On a very positive note, Stiles and Thomas show that young talent can carry a film and we should see them both with substantially better roles in the future.

 
Frank
Chris
Tony
Jim
Jennifer
Kathleen
Avg.
Save the Last Dance
C+
 
C+
C+
 
C
C+

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