Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nobody Puts Good Taste in a Corner!

Finally saw the entirety of "Dirty Dancing" the other day, nearly completing the Patrick Swayze oevre, and let's just say the only thing "dirty" about this movie is how you feel to witness something so cliched and awful. Swayze clearly needed to go star in something thoughtful and deep after this film, which explains his choice to do "Road House" next.

The plot, for those of you fortunate enough to have missed it when it came out over two decades ago, is that the Houseman family is taking a trip for the summer to a resort in the Catskills in 1963. The youngest daughter--Jennifer Grey--is called "Baby" which is great because at the end of the film it wouldn't have flowed so well to hear Swayze say "nobody puts Hortense in a corner!"

The resort basically makes be glad to not have been upper middle class in the early '60s. It's basically old people sitting around watching professional ballroom dancers, listening to painfully bad comedy, and living in cabins. Maybe that was a great relief for Brooklynites back then, but I can't help but think they could have enjoyed themselves more at home by sitting in their back yard and throwing rocks at each other.

Enter Johnny Castle. This is Swayze at his Swayziest, mullet and all (in the early '60s this would be called a "duck-ass pompadour"). He is one of the resort's professional dancers, and he's from the wrong side of the tracks. How can you tell? Oh, because he FREAKING says it every third line. "I'm all working class" and "I don't have your daddy's money" and a bunch of other pseudo-populist crap. Fortunately we don't see him reading from Marx and Engels, but that may have been in the director's cut. Anyway, Johnny's dance partner who he was NOT sleeping with gets knocked up by one of the other resort staffers (surprise, it's the Jewish med student! He even reads Ayn Rand just so you know he's a turd). This means (a) the dance partner needs an abortion, illegal in 1963, and (b) Johnny needs a new dance partner!

So there are a couple of rational things that can be done here. Johnny could have his dance partner fake an ankle sprain, and the resort could get one of their backup dancers to fill in for her. Or, how about a long montage of him teaching Baby to dance so she can fill in? If she fails miserably, no big deal for her, it's only Johnny's job on the line! Let's guess which path they took.

And as for the abortion, I realize that these were illegal in NY in 1963. However, Baby's father is a doctor, and from the looks of things a reasonable and thoughtful man who indulges his daughter in ways that I never could because of my concrete heart. She's able to wheedle $300 from him to pay for the abortion (without telling him what it's for), and mind you in 1963 $300 is something like $20,000 today. And this parade of Mensa candidates decides to use an unlicensed quack to perform the abortion, with unsurprising results--the dance partner suffers complications from the abortion, and Baby has to get her father to come help in the middle of the night anyway. Would it not have made more sense to have told her father the truth to begin with, so he could perform the procedure discretely and safely? I mean, I would understand it if they painted the man as a leader in the pro-life movement, or showed him smacking around his wife and daughter a few times. But the duplicity and risk-taking seemed senseless here.

Of course, Dr. Houseman makes the understandable assumption that Johnny had impregnated the dance partner, because NO ONE including his daughter tried telling him the truth. Johnny just does the working class hero bit about "yeah that's what you'd expect of me, eh?" Hey, Upton Sinclair! That's what he'd expect because YOU NEVER told him otherwise. Moron!

So of course Baby's romance with Johnny is a forbidden one, making it all the sweeter. Hey wait, isn't she a teenager and Johnny's an adult? Whoops! Holy statutory, Batman! Gets even more fun when Baby fesses up to their romance to provide Johnny an alibi for an accusation of petty theft later in the movie. I hope New York State in '63 frowned less on statutory rape cases than they did on stealing wallets!

Anyway, you can guess how it ends--Baby and Johnny wow everyone with their dancing, the father reconciles with his lying moron of a daughter, the resort guests sort of wonder why they're paying good money to watch all this, and the movie audience wonders the same thing.


  1. Will you be reviewing Dirty Dancing 2: Salsa Nights next?

  2. Anonymous--just as soon as I watch "Lambada--the Forbidden Dance"!