Shall We Dance (2004)

Shall We DanceEarlier this week, I watched one of my favourite uplifting films. From 2004, Shall We Dance is a remake of the 1996 Japanese movie of the same name. Richard Gere stars as a man who feels like something is missing, despite seeming to have it all — a successful career as an estate lawyer, a long-term marriage with a beautiful wife (Susan Sarandon), two great kids, and a nice house. Periods of “quiet desperation” are something that many of us above a certain age can relate to, particularly those of us who have been in a long career and/or a long marriage.

On the commuter train, John Clark (Gere) repeatedly sees a beautiful but obviously sad young woman (Jennifer Lopez) back-lit in a second-floor window of a dance studio. One night on impulse, John goes up the stairs and so starts a journey into finding something meaningful through the group of slightly damaged people attached to the ballroom dance classes.

shall_we_danceThis is a quiet movie in its focus on the emotions experienced by the central characters, but there is also some wonderful comedy. The always well-camouflaged Stanley Tucci show us the closet latin dancer behind the carefully cultivated veneer of lawyer and sports fan. Recent Berlin Station chief Richard Jenkins is gently amusing as a private detective. And Lisa Ann Walter is hilarious as the self-involved and totally insensitive Bobbie (“stop looking at my ass!”).

The dancing is superb — Jennifer Lopez is regal and her body moves with strength and grace. Richard Gere is in great shape and performs admirably, particularly in the tango with Lopez. Stanley Tucci is wildly and fully engaged in the latin dance, partnering with Lisa Ann Walter. Anita Gilette at nearly 70 is lithe, and her turn with Gere to “Shall We Dance” from the King and I is joyous.

The best thing about this movie, though, is the hope that it brings for finding something to combat that “quiet desperation”and, indeed, for a long-term marriage. John’s wife, Beverley (Sarandon) muses that people get married “because we need a witness to our lives… you’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

A much older Peter Gabriel than in his Genesis days sings the closing song, “The Book of Love”, summing up what comprises a long relationship.

The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It’s full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing
But I
I love it when you read to me
And you
You can read me anything

(Video produced by Carissa Mendoza.)

6 thoughts on “Shall We Dance (2004)

  1. *Warning! Spoilers in this comment!*
    I saw this a few months ago and was pleasantly surprised. I thought Richard Gere was going to go off with the dance teacher, chucking a marriage for something ‘more exciting’ but that wasn’t what the movie was about at all! It’s about him finding joy and passion in his life again. He wasn’t unhappy because his wife was lacking in any way but because he had neglected himself. I love the moment when at the end Richard Gere finally opens up to his wife Susan Sarandon and lets her in. She then gives him his space and he chooses her to share his newfound passion with… totally heartwarming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the Japanese film, which I saw in a cinema in Germany when it came out; not sure I have ever seen the remake. But the original also had that wonderful quiet, gentle, sweet vibe. A pleasure to watch. My mom even liked it and she hated films with subtitles.

    Liked by 1 person

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