Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Save the Last Dance, or: Kerry Washington, Is That You?!?!

Our 2nd film this month is, purely by coincidence, another one about dance.  And also happens to be the 21st century Dirty Dancing.  Sort of.

The Film:

Save the Last Dance

The Premise:

A teen grieving the loss of her mother learns about hip-hop, love, and the death of ‘90s fashion.

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film takes us on a train through Chicago with an incredibly moody Sara on the way to live with her dad.  As we learn within the first 5 minutes of this movie, her mother was recently killed in a car accident while trying to make it to Sara’s big Julliard dance audition.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sara is incredibly depressed, feels really guilty about insisting her mom be there for the audition, and has lost all interest in ever dancing again.

With the move to her dad’s neighborhood, Sara now attends a predominantly black high school and has a lot of catching up to do.  She immediately makes a bad impression when she gives a really smart, teacher’s pet-type answer only to be corrected by Derek in front of the entire class.

a teen girl wearing overalls holds a lunch tray and textbooks in a school cafeteria
She also thinks it’s a good idea to wear overalls for some reason…

Luckily, Kerry Washington(?!?), aka Chenille, accepts Sara into her friend group and gives her some tips for navigating the cafeteria and other intimidating places.

teenage girls in a school cafeteria look skeptically across the table at a friend
I just had no clue she was in this!  I can’t get over it!

Sara just can’t stop putting her foot in it, though, and calls Derek an asshole before realizing he’s none other than Chenille’s brother.  …Ooops.

Nevertheless, Chenille invites Sara along to a club that evening, where she promises to dance circles around Derek.  Spending time with Chenille, Sara learns her friend is also a new mother who has an on/off relationship with the baby’s father.  Sara also discovers Chenille’s frenemy Nikki used to date Derek and feels really threatened by Sara.

Sara dances really stiffly with Derek, but starts to follow the rhythm a bit more and learn some hip hop moves.  That is, until a fight breaks out and all 3 have to leave the club.

Derek is sort of annoyingly perfect and wants to be a pediatrician.  He is also irritatingly good at listening and drawing out Sara’s secrets.  You’ve ruined me for other men, Derek.  When he learns Sara used to dance but she claims it’s not a big deal, he says the ridiculously sweet line, “I think it is.”

a teenage boy smiles charmingly at a teen girl
Dead. ❤ ❤ ❤

He later surprises Sara with ballet tickets.  Fucking swoon, and I don’t even really like ballet.  After getting Sara to open up about why she doesn’t dance anymore, Derek helps her realize she wants to dance and audition again for Julliard.  Sara insanely does a shitload of ballet while also getting hip hop lessons from Derek, now her boyfriend.

There are now several storylines that begin to intersect and make the rest of this film increasingly melodramatic.

  1. Derek’s friends give him shit about dating Sara. They also think he’s abandoning them and the neighborhood in general and try to get him to seek revenge after a drive-by shooting.
  2. Nikki and Sara finally get into a physical fight, which Sara blames entirely on Nikki. This leads to:
  3. Chenille and Sara having a fight about white privilege, and Chenille claiming Sara shouldn’t be dating Derek.
  4. Sara breaking up with Derek because so many people don’t want to see them together and it’s too hard to keep fighting.
  5. The big audition rolling around, and Sara having no one to support her. …Or does she???
a teenage boy and girl dance together in a club, surrounded by onlookers
Not relevant, but I just wanted to use this screencap.

Okay, this is pretty spoiler-y (though this is an early 2000s teen dance drama, so it ends more or less how you’d expect), but the drama of the film just completely falls apart at the end when Sara is dancing, which contrasts with Derek’s friends being involved in a shoot-out.  Must someone always die when Sara dances?  Is that a sign from the universe or does she have secret dance powers that are beyond her control?

Anyway, Derek shows up at the audition for moral support, telling the judges she’s ready just as she falters.  The drama of this moment is ruined by (1) a judge asking how he got in yet no one actually asking him to leave or doing anything to stop him at all, and (2) Derek jumping onstage to give Sara a pep talk, which apparently crosses the line as a judge interrupts, “We don’t have time for this.”  And there is a slow-mo hug, the most emotionally resonant kind of hug, of course.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Mostly because our leads are just so damn likeable.  Sean Patrick Thomas and his smile, ungh.

Storyline is a bit meh because it tries to do so much and ends up spreading itself too thin.  It’s refreshing to have a teen dance movie ambitiously cover so much ground in terms of race and privilege, but it does get a bit simplistic at times.  The plot makes it ridiculously convenient for Derek to walk away from the gang and leave his friends behind.  And Nikki is annoyingly one-dimensional, there only to stir up drama.

That being said, the dancing in this is amazing and, despite my cynicism, I admit Derek and Sara were a pretty fucking adorable couple.

Would Christa get it on tonite with this film or crush its little Julliard dreams? (Sorry, not sorry—“Get It on Tonite” stuck in my head after the end of this film.)  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Down to You, or: The Unnecessary Cameo Strikes Back

After much (some) consideration, Christa and I decided to keep rolling along with romance films. I think it would have been a travesty not to review any terrible ‘90s rom-coms, so I picked Down to You, starring ‘90s/early ‘00s royalty, Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Julia Stiles.  See what Christa thinks here!

As a word of caution, this review may or may not be colored by my recent interactions with my fucking asshole neighbor and the douchiest trustee ever (see my previous post).

The Film:

Down to You

The Premise:

Julia Stiles and Freddie Prinze, Jr. engage in a maddeningly on-again/off-again relationship as ‘90s college students.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

So basically the first thing we learn about Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Al in this movie) is that he loves to break the fourth wall. Julia Stiles too. This movie would’ve been at least half an hour shorter if they hadn’t broken the goddamn fourth wall so much.

The entire point of breaking the fourth wall was for the two leads to tell us about their first love, providing ahem, “insight” into their relationship. This is film, people. Show, don’t tell.

So basically Al’s college friend group (at NYU? I honestly don’t remember) is the dude who makes porn films, the really stupid guy whose trademark phrase is “Get OUTTA here,” and the…well, Oscar Wilde, essentially. You know, the typical college friend group.

When Al approaches Imogen, aka Julia Stiles, she is trying to decide which Patsy Cline song to play on the jukebox. There’s a guy at the party named Jim Morrison (as it turns out, played by Ashton Kutcher???), and since no one who watches this film is hipster enough, she says “That guy looks like Jim Morrison from The Doors.” There’s nooooooooooooooooooooooo way anyone watching this film could have made that connection without guidance from the writers.

The guy named Jim Morrison LOOKS like Jim Morrison.  You don't say.
The guy named Jim Morrison LOOKS like Jim Morrison. You don’t say.

Also Selma Blair is a porn star who makes films with Al’s friend.

Later, hanging out in Imogen’s dorm, she asks if she can psychoanalyze him. And, okay, I’m probably making this way filthier than it was intended, but her first question is what his favorite food is…and it’s FISH. And hers is ECLAIRS. Whoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooa, guys, this is PG-13.

However, this movie earns major points with Julia Stiles lip synching to “Let’s Stay Together” in the common area. This is clearly the “look how much of a free spirit she is in contrast to his uptight white dude schtick” scene.

As it turns out, Al’s father is a celebrity chef (played by Henry Winkler), so Imogen attends a taping of the show. Chef Ray is super fucking creepy in that he refers to eggplants as women and finds one that is perfect with no perfume and no bruises marring her figure. THEN he calls Imogen a tomato in front of his entire fucking studio audience; GROSS.

Women are not produce.  STAHP.
Women are not produce. STAHP.

For some reason, Imogen, a college freshman, can afford to rent out an entire gallery for Al’s birthday. She wears this awful gray…shift(?) and he has to tell her she looks great. All in all, a pretty bizarre birthday.

Then the end of the year approaches, and Imogen will be abroad in France for the summer.

Apparently Selma Blair’s job is to stand around drinking and saying cynical things like “Love is a hoax.” Basically the entire point of Al’s friend group seems to be making him question his decisions and whether or not his relationship will last. I’m sure I’m at least 5x more cynical than all of the characters in this film put together, but even I believe in the little white lie.

Honestly, at this point, the film is more about Al’s terrible friend group and the Oscar Wilde guy taking a method approach to Hamlet and being totally insufferable. Also Jimmy Kimmel makes an appearance for no reason.

Remember that time Hamlet killed a bear and wore it around Central Park?
Remember that time Hamlet killed a bear and wore it around Central Park?

Meanwhile, Imogen is getting nervous about the idea of being married/having children/Al being an asshole, especially when she has a pregnancy scare. In response, the two decide to party to Vitamin C’s “Smile,” a song which virtually always portends bad things to come. After the events of the party, Al and Imogen break up, and she decides to leave for San Francisco. Before leaving, Imogen emotionally tells Al how she feels, but it just doesn’t work b/c it’s not in the form of a poem about all of his flaws.

So Al graduates, but is in general a shit show. He talks to a spider that lives in his apartment, has oral sex with Selma Blair in a Barnes & Noble (though, let’s be real, a library would probably be way more realistic). This all culminates in Al getting really drunk and drinking Imogen’s shampoo in what is either stupidity or a suicide attempt. Seriously, this dude is an alcoholic and needs to get some help.

Because Imogen happens to be in town, she finds him and they go for a walk in Central Park. She also gives him a copy of a book she wrote about them entitled Down to You and painted the cover I think??? I WONDER if it will bring them back together (it totally will).

This would so be featured in a BuzzFeed list of terrible cover art if it were a real book.
LOOK AT THEIR FACES.  MOSTLY HIS, BUT ALSO HERS.  If this were a real book, it would be featured in a Buzzfeed list of terrible cover art.

The Critique:

Eh, I don’t know about this one.

There was nothing overly objectionable to me, but it was just a series of events in their lives rather than a film with any sort of plot. And their lives were really not that interesting. I didn’t really have any reason to root for Imogen/Al as people or as a couple. Inevitably, I was comparing this in my mind to 10 Things, and it did not compare favorably.

The film does get some points for effectively predicting the explosion of reality TV and food trucks by combining the two in Henry Winkler’s bizarre father/son reality program.

Possibly irrelevant point that still bothers me, but where did the title of Imogen’s book come from? Is it just me or does Down to You sound like the name of a porno film? Is it supposed to?

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Mostly because I love Julia Stiles.

And I’m sorry, Christa, but that cover made this entire film worth it for me.  Speak of the devil, check her review out here.