If there’s one thing to remember the 80s for, it’s how the decade managed to nuance so many film genres, and how it made so many of the genres approachable to the casual moviegoers. Besides that, the era also managed to create some unique combinations of genres, especially related to the ever-evolving genre of musical films. The musicals that used to be all about singing catchy verses were becoming more and more dance-oriented in the 80s, and films like Dirty Dancing ended up being some of the nicest examples of that transformation. Emile Ardolino’s Dirty Dancing may not have involved known names in its cast, but it still managed to be one of the most memorable films of the 1980s.
Dirty Dancing covers most of the aspects that make a good dancing film; likable dance sequences and music, an interesting storyline, and compatible acting.
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The Movie Review
Jennifer Grey plays Frances “Baby” Houseman, who vacations with her parents and her older sister Lisa at the Kellerman’s resort, which is owned by her father’s friend Max. She explores the resort one time and finds out Max overseeing all the waiters, who happen to be Ivy League students, to engage romantically with all the guests’ daughters, regardless of finding them attractive or not.
Max is a terrible boss who discriminates against the working class, one of who is the dance instructor Johnny Castle, who Baby is attracted to at first sight. The two are introduced to each other by his cousin Billy at a secret dirty dancing party for the resort’s staff, where they dance together a bit.
Baby also gets to know Johnny’s current partner Penny, who’s pregnant with the waiter Robbie’s child, a womanizing man who’s been cheating on her explicitly. Baby tries to help Penny get an abortion, and even though Penny is hesitant because that’d interrupt her scheduled dance performance with Johnny, Baby volunteers to take her place instead. In the dance sessions, both Baby and Johnny develop an attraction for each other, and the power of their performances only grows further due to that.
Their performance, besides a few minor flaws, garners acclaim.
Strong character drama follows from then onward, with things going wrong among most of the prominent characters when Penny’s abortion is botched. Aspects of romance and discrimination between two different classes show greatly, but love prevails.
The most likable aspect of this film is that it treats even its supporting characters with great importance. Penny and Robbie have a highly interesting arc, while the love story of Baby and Johnny runs on the frontline. In fact, one can say that the arc of Baby and Johnny gains a lot from the other character arcs.
The writing may not be flawless, but it definitely knows how to make characters interesting. The characters are not the most well-written either, but they’re fairly relatable and are written good enough to care about.
The film involves some catchy music, with some outstanding dance sequences. Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze perform their roles and dance sequences commendably.
Such films rely much more on choreography than they do on the striking imagery of cinematography, but Dirty Dancing is still visually good enough. Eleanor Bergstein, who based this story on an experience of her own life, does an appreciable job at creating very human characters, and a thorough pace despite minor repetitiveness. Emile Ardolino’s direction aids the film nicely too, even though it’s nothing particularly out of the box.
The Bottom Line
Dirty Dancing is one of the most memorable romance-dancing films of the 1980s. It’s nothing legendary, but it’s definitely something to recommend for a single-time viewing. It features relatable characters, a storyline that does not fail, as well as some dance numbers too good for the film’s release time.