STRICTLY BALLROOM: SPECIAL EDITION
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Baz Luhrmann’s debut film follows a ballroom dancer who has lost his partner when he relies too much on his freestyling showmanship. Searching for a new partner, he looks at one of the best dancers in the business as well as the ugly duckling dancer wannabe at his parents’ studio. Working with the ugly duckling, he soon finds a bond that goes beyond dancing.
WHAT I LIKED
It was only recently that I had a chance to start watching Baz Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy. In fact, I realized after finally watching “Strictly Ballroom” that I have now seen all of his films in reverse order, starting with “Australia” a few years back, then “Moulin Rouge!” on Blu-ray, “Romeo+Juliet” on Blu-ray and now the special edition of “Strictly Ballroom.”
Man, I’m glad I didn’t let “Australia” taint his filmography to the point of not watching anything else. (That is not to be too harsh on “Australia,” which was a decent film… just a bit of a misfire and nothing like his other three movies.)
“Strictly Ballroom” is so reserved for Luhrmann as a director, yet it is as fabulous and colorful as any other film out there. Presented in a very modest fashion as an independent Australian film, this movie has a lot of heart, energy and sweetness.
Fans of ballroom dancing should like the atmosphere, including the costumes and the dancing. Those are fine for me, but what really connected to me was the characters. There’s a message of following your dream and believing in yourself which, while done many times before, is presented with a new, fresh perspective.
I’ve heard people rave about “Strictly Ballroom” for years, and it lives up to the hype. The characters have spunk and energy, and the cute little love story makes the film very warm and inviting.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Taken against Luhrmann’s filmography, “Strictly Ballroom” seems rather mundane. It’s one of those films that I would be curious to see what the director would do with it now, armed with a studio budget, a long shooting schedule and plenty of production design money. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it for what it was, but it feels a bit in retrospect like an unfulfilled dream.
The new special edition DVD comes with an audio commentary, a design gallery with narration and a deleted scene. There’s also a rather dull featurette called “Samba to Slow Fox” which spotlights actual dancing. But the new feature on the disc not found on previous editions is “Strictly Ballroom: From Stage to Screen” in which a contemporary Baz Luhrmann reflects on how this film made it from a small production to a highly successful independent film.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who likes a warm, sweet romance and doesn’t mind some ballroom dancing.