The final recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Grease is Dirty Dancing. This is a film I hadn’t seen since it was originally released back in 1987 (and I stole some of the music for a drama presentation I was doing in English class).
Coming to it now, some thirty years later i get the lingering appeal of the story, but also see it as a really simple tale. It’s a coming-of-age tale for a teenaged Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Jennifer Grey) in the summer of ’63.
Off to spend the family vacation at Kellerman’s a family resort in the mountains, Baby soon finds herself in a new world as she transitions from girl to woman, discovering herself along the way.
She’s daddy’s girl; her father (Jerry Orbach) is a successful doctor, who dotes on his family, but she is soon caught up in the leader of the entertainment group, dancer, Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and the sensual and explicit style of dancing that he and his friends do, off the dance floor, dirty dancing.
When Johnny’s dance partner, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes) ends up in the family way, and seeks an abortion, eyes are first cast towards Johnny, but Baby soon learns he is not at fault, and her idealistic nature (something that personifies the best of the 60s, and of humanity) drives her to help in any way she can.
This leads her to having to learn to dance and perform a routine with Johnny, as the two begin falling in love, causing Baby, for the first time to have to lie to her father, and coming to grips with that.
There are a few bothersome things about the story, Johnny is supposed to be 20, and Baby, 16, at that time of life, that’s a bit of an age gap. And despite being set in the 60s, there are a number of songs written and recorded in the 80s to fill out the soundtrack of classic tunes.
The iconic line, “nobody puts Baby in a corner” came from this film, and is enough to stir the heartstrings as Johnny leads Baby into the final dance of the season and the film.
The supporting characters aren’t as rounded out as they should be, and the story itself is simplistic, but Kenny Ortega’s choreography and the chemistry between the leads (some of the best moments in the film are in fact outtakes and flubs) makes this one enduring and enjoyable.
I wouldn’t say I had the time of my life, but it definitely brought back a whole lot of memories watching this one again.