Dir: Peter Chelsom. US.2004. 106mins.
Plenty gets lost intranslation in Miramax Films' well-appointed US remake of Masayuki Suo'sbeloved 1996 Japanese comedy Shall We Dance' but director Peter Chelsomand his megawatt star cast generate sufficient charm to win hearts anew andscore a mid-sized end-of-year hit around the world.
The glitzy teaming of post-
Nor will audience loyalty tothe first film hinder the film's performance in Japan or elsewhere, sinceChelsom and screenwriter Audrey Wells have stayed true to the tone of theirsource material.
If anything, the script byWells (Guinevere, Under The Tuscan Sun) follows the original filmtoo closely. The story of a Japanese accountant whose feelings of complacencywith his house and family lead him to start ballroom dancing lessons in secretwas rooted in the rigid social culture of Japan which stifles any joie de vivrein the lead protagonist, beautifully played by Koji Yakusho.
Originally developed as aproject for Tom Hanks, who is more appropriately "everyman" than the handsomeGere, the remake does little to remodel the characters for a contemporaryChicago setting. The idea that a successful lawyer (Gere) would take to thedancefloor as an escape from the rigidity of his life is harder to swallow thanin a Japanese milieu. Wells wisely fleshes out the rapport between the Americanlawyer and his wife, yet it was the very formality in the relationship betweenJapanese husband and wife which informed the motivation of the husband. Gereand Sarandon cannot pretend to emulate that in a US setting.
Still the tenderness of thelawyer's secret affair with dance and his attraction to the melancholy of theyoung dance teacher remain intact and prove touching.
John Clark (Gere) first seesthe beautiful dance teacher Paulina (Lopez) at the window of her dance studiowhile he is sitting on the train home. He notices her wistful gaze on the worlda few times before plucking up the courage one evening to get off the train andsign up for dance lessons.
As it happens, he and histwo fellow beginners the enormous Vern (Miller) and the lecherous Chic(Cannavale) are taught by the owner of the studio, the aging Miss Mitzi (Gilette),so he has little direct contact with Paulina at first, but slowly comes tolearn that she is a world-class dancer who has competed in Blackpool (theshabby English resort which again is cited as the capital of the ballroomdancing world).
He also discovers that awork colleague Link (Tucci) is also a dancer, albeit replete with wig, fake tanand Latin attitude, and the two become friends.
Soon Miss Mitzi suggeststhat John train for the city's biggest dance competition in partnership withthe jaded Bobbie (Walter) and that Paulina train the duo. As John's enthusiasmfor life is sparked up again through dance, so too the despondent Paulinalearns to love dance again through training them.
But John's wife Beverly(Sarandon) is suspicious about his absences from home and his secrecy and hiresa private detective to look into his whereabouts.
The supporting charactersfeel like pale imitations of those from the original, but then the film belongsto its three leads who each possess a magnetism that can never beunder-estimated. Sarandon injects life into the flattest of material, Gere isalways an appealing leading man and, say what you like about her, Lopez canhold the screen like no other female star working today.
Prod cos: Miramax Films
US dist: Miramax Films
Int'l dist: MiramaxInternational/BVI
Exec prods: Bob Weinstein, HarveyWeinstein, Julie Goldstein
Prod: Simon Fields
Scr: Audrey Wells, from thescreenplay by Masayuki Suo
Cine: John De Borman
Prod des: Caroline Hanania
Ed: Charlie Ireland
Mus: Gabriel Yared & JohnAltman
Main cast: Richard Gere, JenniferLopez, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Bobby Cannavale, Lisa Ann Walter, OmarBenson Miller, Anita Gilette, Richard Jenkins, Nick Cannon