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October 2004

By Wilson Morales

Shall We Dance?

Director: Peter Chelsom
Producer: Simon Fields
Screenwriter: Audrey Wells, based on the screenplay by Masayuki Suo
Cinematographer: John de Borman
Composer: John Altman & Gabriel Yared
Cast: Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Lisa Ann Walter, & Anita Gillette, Omar Miller, and Bobby Canavale, and Mya
Reviewed at Loews 34th, NYC




The latest trend in Hollywood these days are remakes of Japanese films. Not that long ago, we had the remake of the horror film, "The Ring", and in a few weeks another Japanese horror film, "The Grudge", will be Americanized. In the meantime, Miramax has decided to remake a Japanese film they themselves released in 1997, "Shall We Dance?" That film was a small hit for a foreign film. Art house and foreign film moviegoers loved to a film that has substance and some sense of reality. The new version which stars Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and Jennifer Lopez, brings in the same format, but it doesn't really transcend well with an American audience, and Lopez's role is so wooden that it leaves the film with mixed results. Note to filmmakers, when remaking a foreign film, leave the cultural part of the film out because no two countries are the same.

John Clark (Gere) is a lawyer who lives a normal life. His wife Beverly is a manager at a clothing boutique and together they have a son and daughter. On his regular route home and riding the El train in Chicago, John always notices the woman staring out the dance studio window. Nervous and a bit reluctant, John decides to walk inside the studio and take up dance lessons. He meets the owner Mitsy (Gillette) and other students (Canavale, Miller). Mitsy's backup dance instructor is Paulina (Lopez), the woman John saw while on the train. Back home, Beverly notices a shift in John's mood swings as his daughter points out that he seems to more happy. With John never saying a word as to his latest developments in life, Beverly hires a private detective to see if John is having an affair. Meanwhile, at time goes by, John begins to loosen up as well as open up about what makes him happy nowadays. At the same time, Paulina also has some issues she needs to deal with. Eventually all this leads to several dance scenes and a contest where all the drama unfolds.

"Shall We Dance?" is a sweet and passionate story that caters to the world of ballroom dancing and Richard Gere is splendid in his role. Initially bland, but expressing more range as the film moves along, Gere conveys the emotions of a man who's not happy with what he's got. Sarandon compliments his performance with tenderness and curiousity. Lopez is a misfit here. While her background as a dancer may qualify her for the role, her is wooden to say the least. She's not only frigid, but underutilized. There's no chemistry between her and Gere. The marketing of the film judging by the poster may lead people to think that there is a triangle here, but it's not. Also Audrey Wells, the screenwriter, could have expanded Lopez's role to go along with what Americans would find plausible. Canavale, Gillitte, and Miller make up for the amusement, but Tucci almost steals the films with his looks, dances, and his personality. This is a feel good that works because it plays by the books but it actually could have been a lot better had they chosen to modify the settings and tone and not simply play it out like the original.