Retro Review: Dirty Dancing

By: Emily Kellas

Rating: 8 out of 10

This weekend Twilight continues its reign over the hearts of tweens, teens, and my mom, with Breaking Dawn Part One. Peddled as a love story Twilight has taken the romantic film and well… made it undead. For this weeks Retro Review I would like to remind everyone of the days when dance connected couples, not fangs. Dirty Dancing is one of American film’s greatest romances. With its simple story and extraordinary soundtrack, Dirty Dancing has proven its romance status over and over again. Directed by Emile Ardolino and starring Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze 1987’s Dirty Dancing takes us back to a time when family vacations into the Catskill mountains didn’t result in running from werewolf’s or climbing trees with vampires.

Baby Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is on a summer vacation with her family at a resort in the Catskill Mountains of New York. It’s the 1960’s and Baby, a daddy’s girl, is looking for some excitement. She finds it in the well-sculpted form of Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayzee), the resorts dance instructor. Despite their differences, and initial dislike of one another, they fall in love while on the dance floor.

When it was shot and finished many believed the film would be nothing but a flop, to insiders surprise the film has become a cult classic. The story is what really seems to grab audiences. Who doesn’t want to meet their true love somewhere as picturesque as the mountains? And the age-old tale of lady and the tramp is revamped with the doctor’s daughter, and the gyrating man from the other side of the tracks. Unlikely love always makes audiences root for the couple, and essentially the movie. Perhaps one of the most romantic and iconic scenes of 1980’s film is the lake lift. You know it… to help perfect the lift in their routine Johnny takes baby out into the lake and as the music swells lifts her high in the air, clothes clinging to her body. It’s perfectly executed, and beautifully shot with the mountains framing the moment.

As mentioned besides the story and scenery what really brings Dirty Dancing from another forgettable chick flick to a romantic movie staple is the music. By taking the popular tunes of the day such as “Wipe out,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and many more the film manages to capture the time, and the changing sexual atmosphere, as the waltz dies out, and “dirty” dancing comes in. The song most associated with the film, “The Time of My Life” has been played at high school proms since its debut in 1987 and has recently found new life thanks to the Black Eyed Peas. But what the song is most known for is the scene that goes with it. The final dance scene is one that me, and I’m sure many of my fellow ladies would consider one of the sexiest moments in film, and one that I still dream of executing. As Baby defines her parents and leaves with Johnny (“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”) love has been reunited and they shake up the old dusty event. I still get goose bumps every time they make that final running, leap, and lift. And as they dance together amongst the crowd, Johnny mouths the words “I owe it all to you” along with the song, and my heart skips a beat.

Thanks to the superb performances of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze people around the world have gotten to experience true romance, if only on the screen. Dirty Dancing is about nothing more than love, simply love, not vampires, or werewolf’s… good old fashion lets grind on each other love. So as you go out this weekend to watch your favorite diamond skinned, or hairy hero have fun but remember the romances before it, and days before you needed to worry about bringing a silver stake on a date.


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