Oh, itâ€™s obvious from the start that this is a Baz Luhrmann movie . . . splashy, visual, an assembly of appealing (or appalling) characters, a fairly predictable but non-the-less satisfactory â€˜go where your dream takes you!â€™ plot, music that wonâ€™t stop, and simply acres of swirling neon-colored marabou, very strange Mohawk hairstyles â€“ for women â€“ and glitter applied in strange places on the face. As it turns out from the documentary feature about the making of Strictly Ballroom, how this it even got made at all is at least as much of a turn around the dramatical boards as the plot of the movie itself. It was the directorsâ€™ breakout picture â€“ and set him on the path to directing major releases; releases which had several times the budget and star-power . . . and maybe just enough of the quirky charm and energy to go from farce to heartbreak and back again.
At the very least, Strictly Ballroom is an introduction to a very special and â€“ not to put to fine a point on it â€“ the bizarre and obsessive world of competitive ballroom dancing, Australian style. Welcome to a world that makes obsessive Texas cheerleading mothers look positively well-balanced by comparison. Oddly enough, the movie I was most reminded of was the mocumentary Best in Show â€“ about similarly obsessed people in pursuit of glory, but in the dog-show arena and not the ballroom dance floor.
The plot is gossamer thin; the son of two long-time competitive dancers (who now run a dance studio) wants to dance in his own style; his comically domineering mother is frantic, his semi-withdrawn father doesnâ€™t seem to care very much at all, his partner has quit â€“ and he must cobble together a prize-winning couples performance with the plain girl who seems at first to have two left feet. Will he break free? Will his father come out of his apparent shell? Will the plain girl be revealed as a Cinderella? Will he truly be able to pursue his dream? And will the skeevy dance judges get their eventual comeuppance?
Of course â€“ but you know that already â€“ itâ€™s that getting there is a whole lot of fun. Extras on the DVD as noted include an extended documentary about how Baz Luhrmann pulled it all together, on a shoe-string and unshakable faith in his production. There is also a feature about real-life competitive ballroom dancers . . . who, to be frank, seem hardly less odd and compulsive than the characters in the movie itself.
Strictly Ballroom is available from Amazon.com and other retail outlets.
Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her Adelsverein Trilogy is also available through Amazon.com. More about her books, including Daughter of Texas, due for release in April 2011 is at her website www.celiahayes.com.