Film Review: Strictly Ballroom

As anyone who knows me will know, I am a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing. I've been watching it since the start (minus the year Darren Gough won which I missed most of due to not having a TV in uni halls and this being before BBC iPlayer existed) and just love it - the costumes, the music, the chemistry between the celebs and pros, and even the judges' spats, although I do wish Alesha would learn to speak properly. So with the new series starting in just a few days, I figured what better time to do a blog on its namesake, Strictly Ballroom.

Shot in a mock documentary style, the film tells the story of Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio), a rebellious Aussie ballroom dancing star who causes chaos when he chooses to dance his own crowd-pleasing steps rather than those prescribed by the strict Australian Dance Federation, much to the upset of his mum Shirley and partner Liz. The only person who believes in Scott is shy beginner Fran, and they secretly begin practising together to dance Scott's steps at the Pan-Pacific Championships.

More a film to raise a wry smile than belly laughs, the film's star turn is the late Pat Thompson as Scott's Avon lady mum who's so wrapped up in her children's dance success that she loses sight of what will truly make them happy in a cloud of over the top cosmetics, frosted hair and fake tan. Even though I'm not normally a fan of kids in films, Lauren Hewett and Steve Grace make a great pairing in the roles of Kylie, Scott's little sister who turns out to be surprisingly insightful, and her partner Luke. It's also got a wonderful sequence in which Scott and Fran dance the rumba to Doris Day's 'Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps', completely lost in their own world as the others look on, made even more stark by the contrast between the simplicity of Scott and Fran's look in comparison to the neon make-up and gravity-defying hairstyles of the other characters. In fact the film's ballroom sequences are a visual riot of lurid colours and sequins, balanced with the more toned down palette of Fran's family life and her dance training with Scott.

Yes the plot's a bit simplistic - at its heart it's a Romeo and Juliet-esque tale of following your heart and standing up for what you believe in - and there's never a sense that many of the characters are particularly likeable, but there's something about the film as a whole that's ultimately uplifting and will have you rooting for Scott and Fran to win. Almost 20 years since it was made, it's still the best thing director Baz Luhrmann's ever done and highly recommended if you need a film to get lost in for a couple of hours.

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