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

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

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

If I Stay (Please Don’t)

Christa and I have time to kill at the moment (always a dangerous thing), so we’ve decided to make the next couple of weeks about whatever we want them to be. To borrow (steal) from Christa, it’s Free For All Fortnight, aka Blog Free Or Die Hard, aka I must always have 1,000 alternate titles for everything we do. Christa’s kicking off this limited edition of the collab with If I Stay. Check out her review here.

The Film:

If I Stay

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

According to Netflix, “A promising cellist. A tragic car crash. A choice to pursue her dreams or to follow the white light that beckons.”

The Uncondensed Version:

I don’t think there’s any way to hold back my annoyance with this film, so let’s just be up front about it, shall we?

One of the first things our protagonist/narrator says is “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon’s biggest regret was that he ever uttered those words. Our quote/narration/every damn thing about this movie sets up the choice Mia will have to make about (spoiler alert) whether to live or die (that can’t seriously be a spoiler, though, right? Even if you never saw any of the promos for this film, surely you can guess this movie is about more than whether Mia should stay at a party or go home and watch Netflix [always choose Netflix, Mia]).

A teenage girl in a blonde wig and leopard print outfit smiles at a boy at a party.
It might be fun to dress as Debbie Harry for a Halloween party, but it’s not as fun as Netflix.

The structure of the film alternates between the life Mia had before the car accident that leaves her in a coma and the aftermath that determines whether she decides to live.

Let’s take a look at reasons Mia has to live:

  1. Adoring family, made up of former punk rocker parents, little brother, grandparents, and various punk friends of Mia’s parents
  2. Love of the cello, classical music, and possible Julliard acceptance
  3. Rocker boyfriend, Adam, who is, according to Mia, soooooooooooooooooooooooo out of her league

And reasons to give up:

  1. Family decimated by car crash
  2. Even if accepted to Julliard, most likely career path is performing on subway cars
  3. Adam = douche

I’m sorry, but we have to talk about Adam. Partly because he’s vitally important to the plot but mostly because I just fucking hate him. Adam takes an interest in Mia even though she’s a quiet cellist and he’s the lead singer/guitarist of a (high school) rock band and “already was somebody.”

So Adam and Mia date and fall in love and have sex in a shed, which looks way more comfortable/romantic than it would be in real life. Adam is so smooth and utters such classic lines as “The you you are now is the same you I’m in love with.” (WHAT?) However, obstacles abound when Adam’s rock career takes off and he’s…still dating a high school student. (They can make it work, you might think optimistically. CLING TO YOUR FANTASIES, YOU NAÏVE FOOL.) Meanwhile, Mia keeps her Julliard audition to herself as acceptance to the school would put 3,000 miles between the two. When Adam hears about the audition, he handles it really well by agreeing to a sudden week-long tour. Apparently he wants to be a rock star without ever having to leave Portland. Dude, have you never heard of concert tours? Fuck this guy, Mia. This is a toxic relationship if he can’t be happy for your successes.

A teen boy stands by a girl's open locker, which is decorated with multiple stickers that read "I Heart Yo Yo Ma."
Also doesn’t know who Yo-Yo Ma is. Not the best sign.

Since he’s manipulative as fuck and can’t handle Mia having her own autonomy, Adam breaks up with her and says they can’t do long-distance because it’s like dating a ghost. Honestly, a movie about a long-distance relationship with an actual ghost would’ve been much more interesting than this film.

So Mia and Adam do this aggravating on-again/off-again thing forever. The first time they make up, Adam apologizes by putting up images in her room of the ceiling where she’ll be doing her Julliard audition WITHOUT HER KNOWLEDGE OR PERMISSION. He also gives her a cello/guitar bracelet and rather condescendingly asks “Do you get it?”

NO, ADAM, FUCKING EXPLAIN IT TO ME.

The Critique:

This is reasonably spoiler-y, but IDGAF. If you still want to watch this movie after reading my review and Christa’s review, I feel sorry for you. Based on the structure of this film, I couldn’t help thinking that Mia had to basically trade almost every member of her family to be with Adam. Mia needs a t-shirt that reads “My entire family died in a car crash, and all I got was this stupid boyfriend.” The worst part is I didn’t even care about Mia and her suffering because everyone in this film was so bland. I got a teensy bit emotional during a scene between Mia and her crusty grandfather (played by Stacy Keach?!?!). All other bits of this movie made me feel I have a heart of stone.

An older man driving a car talks to his granddaughter.
Likes: plaid shirts. Dislikes: punk music, feelings.

Basically every 10 mins I thought, “Is this over yet?” and/or “Why am I not watching Save the Last Dance?” or “Why isn’t Save the Last Dance on Netflix???” Also about a high school girl trying to get in to Julliard while dating a guy whose musical tastes are considered too mainstream. However, Sean Patrick Thomas was super adorable and supportive, unlike stupid Adam.

One positive thing about this film: how ridiculously composed Chloë Grace Moretz is. She was maybe 16 or 17 during the filming of this movie but brings a maturity to the role that I’m not 100% sure I have.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Tempted to go 1/5, but the last film I can remember giving that rating to was Gummo, and at least no cats died in the events of this film.

I feel watching We Are the Best! again would have been more entertaining and true to the spirit of punk.

See if Christa’s rage matches my own here!

EDIT: GUYS, THERE WAS A SAVE THE LAST DANCE 2(?!?!?!?!). I suppose they couldn’t retroactively change the original film’s title to Save the Penultimate Dance.