Review No. 479
Baz Luhrmann, take your Adderall.
DIRECTED BY BAZ LUHRMANN. WRITTEN BY LUHRMANN, ANDREW BOVELL, AND CRAIG PEARCE. STARRING PAUL MERCURIO (SCOTT HASTINGS), TARA MORICE (FRAN), BILL HUNTER (BARRY FIFE), GIA CARIDES (LIZ HOLT), LAUREN HEWETT (KYLIE HASTINGS), AND ANTONIO VARGAS (RICO). ALSO STARRING PAT THOMSON, PETER WHITFORD, BARRY OTTO, ARMONIA BENEDITO, JOHN HANNAN, KERRY SHRIMPTON, KRIS McQUADE, SONIA KRUGER, TODD McKENNEY, PIP MUSHIN, LEONIE PAGE, STEVE GRACE. DISTRIBUTED BY MIRAMAX FILMS ON FEBRUARY 12, 1993. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH BY AUSTRALIA. RUNS 1 HOUR, 34 MINUTES. RATED PG BY THE MPAA, FOR MILD LANGUAGE AND SENSUALITY.
STRICTLY BALLROOM WAS WATCHED ON MAY 18, 2013.
“There are no new steps!” –Barry Fife (Bill Hunter)
Director Baz Luhrmann’s films have been rambunctiously different in quality, wildly loopholing around the map as if it were his flashy style. You never know when he’s going to appease a crowd or enrage them; all you know is that, due to his interest in product placement and flamboyant (but, somehow, tame) trailers, he’ll have a crowd to react to him. We didn’t know that Romeo + Juliet would be a complete Baztardization of British literature, but it was. We didn’t expect Moulin Rouge! to be a near-definitive jukebox opera, but it was. We hoped for Australia to be a shorter ode to the outback, but it wasn’t. And no matter how much time we spend praying to whatever deity that Strictly Ballroom is not god-awful, that deity laughs. And he doesn’t stop until Baz is done masochistically torturing us.
I don’t want to spend time reviewing Strictly Ballroom. I don’t want to relive it. I don’t want to compliment it at all. Because I hated it. Fine, the music was decent. I’ll give it that, but if I knew what I was in for, I wouldn’t have gone ahead and pressed play, even on the conditions of these sped-up/slowed-down excerpts Baz has included here. I could be listening to the music while doing something else. Why didn’t I think of that in the first place? Am I that stupid?
Strictly Ballroom wants to put dancing on film. Lovingly. I mean, it’s Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling, except for ballroom dancing. Who doesn’t love The Ugly Duckling? Okay, I’ll be honest, it’s a good story, but if you can connect it to The Ugly Duckling, it’s a flaring cliché. Honestly, it’s an abomination to both dancing and film. There’s virtually nothing cinematic about this movie, other than that it’s filmed with a 35mm camera and has a crew assigned to it. The cast doesn’t know how to act in the least, and the crew goes far over the top with lighting, sound, editing, special effects, and costumes. If you, for whatever reason, are curious about the experience of an epileptic seizure, here’s your chance.
Baz Luhrmann co-wrote with two other mostly unfamiliar men, one of whom is his continuing writing collaborator Craig Pearce. Luhrmann is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the field of pacing, and yes, it is very frightening indeed. He seems contained one moment. Oh it’s just a fine, simplistic dancing movie. People with Australian accents, talking daintily to one another like fine chums and chaps and the amicable blokes we are and whatnot. (Perhaps an Australian could teach me better slang.) Then, his medication wears off in an instant. We’re watching kangaroos hop across the screen to a cover version of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”. Except these aren’t kangaroos. These are humans. Moreover, they’re actors claiming to star in a real movie, and getting paid for doing so!
Please try and reason with me as to why this is one of the greatest movies of all time. I’m astonished that critics seem to think so. But at this point, when Rotten Tomatoes reports that “95% of critics liked it,” that statistic means absolutely nothing to me. Because, guess what, 20% of me liked it. That’s a generous twenty for something as simple as the renditions we hear in the audio, especially when I could be listening to it elsewhere.
I know what you’re thinking. You want me to shut up at this point. I should, or else I’ll start directing movies, and my obnoxious, vocal, repetitively flamboyant attitude may transform me into a theoretical “Son of Luhrmann”. As in Son of Dracula, or Son of Frankenstein, but Son of Luhrmann, which is ten times more horrifying. Oh, look at the exit music cutting me off. It appears to fit the occasion quite nicely, and it seems as if spoken by the great Roger Ebert himself:
“I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.”
STAY TUNED FOR MY “WAYNE’S WORLD” REVIEW @ 4:30