Strictly Ballroom

Review No. 479

Baz Luhrmann, take your Adderall.

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D-MINUS

DIRECTED BY BAZ LUHRMANN.  PRODUCED BY TRISTRAM MIALL AND ANTOINETTE ALBERT. WRITTEN BY LUHRMANN, ANDREW BOVELL, AND CRAIG PEARCE. STARRING PAUL MERCURIO (SCOTT HASTINGS), TARA MORICE (FRAN), BILL HUNTER (BARRY FIFE), GIA CARIDES (LIZ HOLT), LAUREN HEWETT (KYLIE HASTINGS), AND ANTONIO VARGAS (RICO). ALSO STARRING PAT THOMSON, PETER WHITFORD, BARRY OTTO, ARMONIA BENEDITO, JOHN HANNAN, KERRY SHRIMPTON, KRIS McQUADE, SONIA KRUGER, TODD McKENNEY, PIP MUSHIN, LEONIE PAGE, STEVE GRACE. DISTRIBUTED BY MIRAMAX FILMS ON FEBRUARY 12, 1993. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH BY AUSTRALIA. RUNS 1 HOUR, 34 MINUTES. NOT FOR ALL AGES, DUE TO PROFANITY AND SEXUAL SITUATIONS.

STRICTLY BALLROOM WAS WATCHED ON MAY 18, 2013.

“There are no new steps!” –Barry Fife (Bill Hunter)

Director Baz Luhrmann’s films have been rambunctiously different in quality, wildly loopholing around the map as if it were his flashy style. You never know when he’s going to appease a crowd or enrage them; all you know is that, due to his interest in product placement and flamboyant (but, somehow, tame) trailers, he’ll have a crowd to react to him. We didn’t know that Romeo + Juliet would be a complete Baztardization of British literature, but it was. We didn’t expect Moulin Rouge! to be a near-definitive jukebox opera, but it was. We hoped for Australia to be a shorter ode to the outback, but it wasn’t. And no matter how much time we spend praying to whatever deity that Strictly Ballroom is not god-awful, that deity laughs. And he doesn’t stop until Baz is done masochistically torturing us.

I don’t want to spend time reviewing Strictly Ballroom. I don’t want to relive it. I don’t want to compliment it at all. Because I hated it. Fine, the music was decent. I’ll give it that, but if I knew what I was in for, I wouldn’t have gone ahead and pressed play, even on the conditions of these sped-up/slowed-down excerpts Baz has included here. I could be listening to the music while doing something else. Why didn’t I think of that in the first place? Am I that stupid?

Strictly Ballroom wants to put dancing on film. Lovingly. I mean, it’s Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling, except for ballroom dancing. Who doesn’t love The Ugly Duckling? Okay, I’ll be honest, it’s a good story, but if you can connect it to The Ugly Duckling, it’s a flaring cliché. Honestly, it’s an abomination to both dancing and film. There’s virtually nothing cinematic about this movie, other than that it’s filmed with a 35mm camera and has a crew assigned to it. The cast doesn’t know how to act in the least, and the crew goes far over the top with lighting, sound, editing, special effects, and costumes. If you, for whatever reason, are curious about the experience of an epileptic seizure, here’s your chance.

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That’s her reaction to him. For my reaction to “Strictly Ballroom”, please Google “A Clockwork Orange Ludovico torture scene.”

Baz Luhrmann co-wrote with two other mostly unfamiliar men, one of whom is his continuing writing collaborator Craig Pearce. Luhrmann is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the field of pacing, and yes, it is very frightening indeed. He seems contained one moment. Oh it’s just a fine, simplistic dancing movie. People with Australian accents, talking daintily to one another like fine chums and chaps and the amicable blokes we are and whatnot. (Perhaps an Australian could teach me better slang.) Then, his medication wears off in an instant. We’re watching kangaroos hop across the screen to a cover version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”. Except these aren’t kangaroos. These are humans. Moreover, they’re actors claiming to star in a real movie, and getting paid for doing so!

Please try and reason with me as to why this is one of the greatest movies of all time. I’m astonished that critics seem to think so. But at this point, when Rotten Tomatoes reports that “95% of critics liked it,” that statistic means absolutely nothing to me. Because, guess what, 20% of me liked it. That’s a generous twenty for something as simple as the renditions we hear in the audio, especially when I could be listening to it elsewhere.

I know what you’re thinking. You want me to shut up at this point. I should, or else I’ll start directing movies, and my obnoxious, vocal, repetitively flamboyant attitude may transform me into a theoretical “Son of Luhrmann”. As in Son of Dracula, or Son of Frankenstein, but Son of Luhrmann, which is ten times more horrifying. Oh, look at the exit music cutting me off. It appears to fit the occasion quite nicely, and it seems as if spoken by the great Roger Ebert himself:

“I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.”

STAY TUNED FOR MY “WAYNE’S WORLD” REVIEW @ 4:30

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7 thoughts on “Strictly Ballroom

  1. I can appreciate that you didn’t enjoy the film, but I’m perplexed as to why you hated it so much. It’s been two decades, but I remember it being just a lighthearted romp about ballroom dancing. I don’t know. Seemed kind of fun.

  2. I don’t know who told you “Strictly Ballroom” is one of the best films ever, and I’m not a Baz Luhrmann fan by any standard, but you’re being way too mean on it. “Strictly Ballroom”‘s fun. Yeah, it’s cliched, but it’s a good, light rom-com, with a nice little satire after competitive ballroom dancing in it. (Which btw, isn’t madeup. There is a subsection in Australia, where there are these rigidly control ballroom dance worlds, that are constantly arguing over steps, and such things) It’s a good first film for him. It’s not a mastepiece, it certainly was entertaining, was funny and touching at times. You can watch it, and see how he used some of the same techniques and influences towards his other films, especially “Moulin Rouge!”

    And bitching about Australian accents in an Australian film, makes you sound immature. Yeah, his dialogue’s more stylized, I’ll grant you, but that’s like complaining about how everyone’s speaking Italian in a Fellini film.

    I’m pretty sure you just chose to have critical blinders on, and didn’t sit back to enjoy it for what it is. “Strictly Ballroom” is nowhere near a film that requires arching back to Roger Ebert’s “North” review. Way too mean.

    • Well, I guess negative reviews aren’t targeted at those who enjoyed the film at hand. My comments about the Australian accents wasn’t to badmouth Australians (especially in an Australian film, which I know this is), and no one’s actually told me this is the best movie ever. It’s a little device called “sarcasm.” I sense that you are in need of Merriam-Webster’s definitions, which I have provided for you below:

      “1 : a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
      2 a : a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual
      2 b : the use of language of sarcasm”

      And I wasn’t being mean. “Mean” would be rambling about the film without using any examples or reasoning to support. I used the film and Roger Ebert’s description of a film that sounds just as agonizing to watch. I think what you mean by “mean” is “factually asserting why this infernally extracted scum of the earth is so god-awful.” And to that, my friend, there is never a limit, which is why I don’t understand why you would waste three paragraphs trying to prove such an invalid point.

  3. That was fun to read though. Have never seen the film myself, but sometimes it’s great to read other people trashing stuff. This was one of those times.
    I liked Australia, and Gatsby was okay, but I haven’t seen any of the rest of his stuff. He seems to elicit strong reactions from people though.

    • Thanks! I had a lot of fun trashing the most recent commentator, who thought I was just “too mean” to this one. It’s just like writing a negative review when you get one of those comments from one of those people who can’t identify sarcasm. Lol.

      I did see Gatsby recently. Now I’ve seen all five of Luhrmann’s films, which is sort of relieving. I enjoyed Gatsby, and it led me to read the book (which, before, I took a pass on, figuring I’d have to read it junior year anyway). I started just a few hours after seeing the movie, and I don’t think I’ve seen a more faithful adaptation. Though incidentally, you can’t really see what Fitzgerald was intending through the film.

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