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Dirty Dancing

Year: 1987
Production Co: Vestron Pictures
Director: Emile Ardolino
Writer: Eleanor Bergstein
Cast: Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Jerry Orbach, Wayne Knight

It seems no matter how many times they remake Romeo and Juliet it'll always be a huge hit. There's just something so universal about falling in love across social, racial or socioeconomic lines, and the most successful manifestation of it is the buttoned up, timid girl and the misunderstood rebel from the wrong side of the tracks who hides a sensitive lover behind a tough exterior.

Lay that template over the story of a teenager at a mountain holiday resort with her family in an era of relative innocence like the 60s and you have this enduring 80s classic. The motif of a straight-laced world and the simmering underground of hedonism and sensuality just underneath (the early rock and roll movement) is always the perfect metaphor for a sexual awakening.

That's especially true when the lead character is a girl, because as a society we've always seen young girls as the most vulnerable and in need of protection from the lecherous desires of grown men. And if you look deep enough, that's because the Protestant social bedrock most of the English speaking world rests upon fears the catastrophic power every young girl will one day command, her sexual allure.

All of which makes this umpteenth recasting of the star-cross'd lovers so easy to digest despite the flaws in the performance and script. But as the title suggests, you're not there to see Oscar winners at work. Baby (Grey) isn't expecting anything Earth shattering when she goes on vacation with her folks and sister, but she quickly falls under the sway of the wayward staff parties where they eat, drink, make merry and dance very dirtily. She's especially taken by their erstwhile leader, resort dance instructor and after-hours bad boy Johnny (Swayze in the role he never outgrew).

As Shakespeare predicted, Baby's parents (Orbach and an actress that looks so much like Susan Sarandon she had me fooled for a few scenes) are none too happy, but Baby agrees to fill in for Johnny's usual revue partner after a botched abortion behind their backs. Their budding relationship as Johnny teaches Baby how to dance gets the entire midsection of the film to play out until the inevitable exposure of their scheme and relationship that gets Johnny fired and Baby on her beloved Dad's bad side.

But as any romance author will tell you, the darkest place in the story is right when you fear all is lost, just before the emotional climax where the hero and heroine overcome the story's obstacles to declare their love, so all that's left is for Johnny to stride back in during the big climatic stageshow, snarl his signature line ('nobody puts Baby in a corner'), and launch into their well choreographed number as Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley warble the irritatingly catchy Time Of My Life.

After the springboard of Ferris Bueller's Day Off and this film, Grey should have owned Hollywood. Instead an agent convinced her to get a nose job and she's since publicly blamed it for her lack of roles since. Director Ardolino likewise didn't go onto much more, helming a few unchallenging comedies like Chances Are and Sister Act. And Swayze – who hated being a sex symbol – seemed to spend the rest of his career trying to shake the shadow of Johnny Castle off.

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