Stricly Ballroom (1992)

Twenty-nine years ago today, the film Strictly Ballroom premiered. Before there was Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, and The Great Gatsby, there was Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom. I saw this in a little theater in Seattle and remember the audience laughing and cheering. You have to see this film

Title: Strictly Ballroom
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Produced by: Tristram Miall, Antoinette Albert
Screenplay by: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce, Andrew Bovell
Based on: Strictly Ballroom by Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides, Peter Whitford, Barry Otto
Music by: David Hirschfelder
Cinematography: Steve Mason
Edited by: Jill Bilcock
Production Company: M&A Productions, Ronin Films
Distributed by: Miramax
Release date: 20 August 1992 (Australia)
Running time: 94 minutes
Country: Australia
Language: English
Budget: AUD 3 million
Box office: AUD 80 million
Cannes Film Festival: Award Of The Youth for Foreign Film
BAFTA Film Award for Best Costume Design, Best Original Film Score, Best Production Design
London Critics Circle Film Awards: ALFS Award for Newcomer of the Year (Baz Luhrmann)

Scott Hastings is the frustrated son of a family of ballroom dancers, who has been training since childhood. His mother Shirley teaches ballroom dancing, and his father Doug meekly handles maintenance chores at the dance studio, while secretly spending hours in a back room watching old footage of his bygone dance competitions. Scott struggles to establish his personal style of dance on his way to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship, but his innovative and flashy steps are not considered “strictly ballroom”, and as such are denounced by Australian Federation head Barry Fife.

Scott loses a competition because he started dancing his own steps, and his dancing partner Liz leaves him to team up with Ken, whose partner Pam Short has broken both her legs in a car accident (as just previously wished upon by Liz). With Scott now alone only three weeks until the championships, Shirley and her co-instructor at the studio, Les, embark on a desperate hunt for a new partner for Scott. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to both Shirley and Les, Scott is approached by Fran, an overlooked “beginner” dancer at the studio. Scott eventually agrees to partner with Fran, intrigued by her willingness to dance “his way”.

The pairing faces its first challenge when Fife, in an effort to pull Scott into line and prevent him from threatening the Dancesport status quo, arranges for Scott to become the new partner of Tina Sparkle, an established Champion dancer. When Shirley and Les hear the news, they are overjoyed; Fran, happening upon them exclaiming over their happiness about Scott’s new dance partner, misunderstands initially and believes they have discovered that she and Scott have become partners. When she realizes the truth, she leaves, devastated. Scott chases after her and, although she is hurt, he entices her to dance backstage with him, and her anger is forgotten. However, their dance is witnessed by several onlookers, among them Shirley and Les, who then do everything they can to persuade both Scott and Fran that the best way forward for all concerned is for Scott to forget about Fran and sign on as Tina Sparkle’s partner.

Fran, accused of damaging Scott’s chances, reluctantly accedes and returns home crestfallen. Scott argues with his mother, telling her and all he won’t be manipulated, so won’t become Tina’s partner. He follows Fran home, where he is discovered and challenged by Fran’s overprotective Spanish father. Scott, to appease the father, proposes that they dance a Paso Doble for the assembled company. Fran’s father and grandmother demonstrate how the Paso Doble should be danced, and offer to teach the youngsters.

Fran and Scott spend the next week training, supported by her family. However, Fife intervenes, telling Scott that Scott’s father, Doug, ruined his career by dancing his own steps too, which he’s regretted ever since. Not wanting to cause his parents further heartache, Scott reteams with Liz to attempt win the Pan-Pacific.

During the competition, Doug tells Scott that Fife’s story is a lie: he had convinced Shirley not to dance with him so he, Fife, could win the competition. It is also revealed that Fife is plotting to sabotage Scott in favor of audience favorite Ken Railings. Scott runs after Fran and persuades her to dance with him.

In the next round, Scott and Fran make their own dramatic entrance and begin dancing, immediately riveting the audience. Fife tries to disqualify them, but Scott’s friend Wayne, having overheard Fife’s treachery, disconnects the PA system, allowing Scott and Fran to dance a Paso Doble routine that wins the audience over. Desperate, Fife tries to turn off the music, but Scott’s sister Kylie and her partner Luke interfere until Fife’s girlfriend Charm Leachman disconnects the sound system. Fife then disqualifies Scott and Fran, but Doug begins clapping out a beat to enable Scott and Fran to continue dancing. The audience claps along, as Scott and Fran begin dancing again. Liz restores the music, and Scott and Fran’s spirited dancing brings down the house. Doug asks Shirley to dance with him and the whole audience joins them on the floor. As the performance finishes, Scott and Fran kiss, the competition forgotten.

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