Well, I've watched some clips, and I have the following things to say: 1) Jennifer Grey is a-fucking-mazing. Go on and get it, girl. 2) I really, truly, unabashedly, and unironically love the movie Dirty Dancing.
First of all, there are few movies I can think of that aren't directed by Martin Scorsese that have such a strong sense of place. Jewish summer resorts like Kellerman's still exist, and they are exactly that stuffy, boring, and infantalizing. They have variety shows strung together by lame stand-up bits. They have wig-trying sessions. And they definitely have a strong "meet smart young Chosen People like you so you can marry and make babies!" idea that was pushed on Baby and Neil. This element of the film is so true to life that it's practically a documentary. In fact, just about the only thing that isn't accurate is Johnny's attractiveness, which is just outlandish by any standards.
I also find the supporting characters to be a surprisingly interesting lot. The aforementioned Neil, the Guy Who Works On Paper But Just Isn't Right For Our Heroine (see also: Ben Stiller in Reality Bites, Patrick Dempsey in Sweet Home Alabama), isn't an entirely bad guy. He is a snob who talks down to his employees, yes; but he's also interested and involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Penny, the skeleton with a nice blonde wig who gets knocked up by Robby The Creep and then gets a back alley abortion (zoinks!), isn't the one-note hardened bitch you'd expect from a lesser movie. She's a woman treated pretty badly by people she loved, and dedicated to protecting the one person who loves her back.
|She's also dedicated to having perfect extension. I mean, damn.|
But of course, the main point of this movie is the romance between Johnny and Baby, and how they learn a lot about life and love and each other and stuff. My general argument with romantic comedies is that, since the destination is almost definitely a given, the proceedings should try to be as engaging and entertaining as possible. I don't think this movie disappoints on that front.
I'm not saying anything controversial when I say that Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey aren't the greatest actors of all time. Having said that, they are exceptional dancers, in two ways. One, they're just very skilled in a technical sense. They're both strong, agile, and graceful performers. Two, and more importantly, they are incredibly expressive dancers. While their faces may not convey every emotion that their characters (should) feel, their dancing certainly does. Watch the first sex scene again and tell me that Ms. Grey doesn't totally embody a shy, lovestruck teenager determined to do the impossible and seduce a man who seems completely out of her league.
Most of today's mainstream famous dancers - I'm thinking of people like Usher and Chris Brown - seem to eschew the storytelling component. The side-by-side comparison of Gene Kelly and Usher performing "Singin' in the Rain" is a ludicrously perfect example. (Seriously, who put that idea together? It's so apropos I don't know what to do with myself.) Usher gets the moves right, sure. But Gene Kelly IS a man falling in blissful, euphoric love. I submit that Patrick Swayze was a dancer in the Gene Kelly mold. He brings every emotional layer Johnny Castle has out on the dance floor.
I'll leave you to figure out the emotional layers here.
There are a lot of things I'd change about Dirty Dancing. I'd change the actress who plays Baby's super annoying twit of an older sister in a heartbeat. I'd change the chronological confusion of the soundtrack (Merry Clayton, you're incredible, but what the fuck are you doing there). I'd change the fact that I've seen the sequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. But at the end of the day, I just goddamn love it. So thanks, Dancing with America's Next Top Stars, for reminding me.