Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Day 180: Strictly Ballroom (1992) - Rank 4/5
Close ups of garish eccentrics with a wide-angle lens...that's a quick summery of Baz Luhrmann's first, major directorial effort. But daffy, Australian character actors aside, Luhrmann presents a fun permutation of the tried-but-true Romeo and Juliet in the form of a dancing competition. Scott Hastings, the rising star of a family with a prominent ballroom dancing legacy, goes against the popular styles and trends with some flashy moves of his own. His headstrong ways alienate his long-time partner from him as well as many others in the dance community, but it draws homely Fran to him. Though the two are not the ideal couple in the eyes of all around them, they slowly begin to make their way to the infamous Pan Pacific Championship. Ah, but will their rising success and love be stopped by other, sinister forces? Namely....
the nefarious Barry Fife. Now, the film is filled with a number of hilarious characters, but Bill Hunter's bombastic and bullying performance easily steals the show. I was unfamiliar with this fellow prior to "Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." While he was endearing as Bob, the "wanna-be groupie" for the cabaret trio, he didn't stand out much in the film. I suppose that's primarily due to the outlandish nature of his "competition" (it's hard to top Terence Stamp in a dress). But in "Stricly Ballroom" he shines as he bellows out insults and prepares conniving schemes to make Scott fail.
The film never soars to the excellent level of Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge" or "Australia," but it's still an entertaining romantic comedy that doesn't stoop to treacle to win the audiences affections. The director's sense of the melodramatic is certainly present here though (to a zany extent), moreso than his other productions. However, "Romeo + Juliet" is still in my queue for the future, so I suppose I might be judging prematurely.
Watch the Trailer