Re-Watch: Dirty Dancing (1987)

Dirty Dancing
Director: Emile Ardolino
Writer: Eleanor Bergstein
Cast: Jennifer Grey, Patrick Swayze, Jerry Orbach, Cynthia Rhodes, Jack Weston, Jane Brucker, Kelly Bishop, Lonny Price, Max Cantor
Seen on: 19.1.2018
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Plot:
Baby (Jennifer Grey) is going to a holiday resort with her family for the summer. Big things are expected of her: her adoring father Jake (Jerry Orbach) sees her rescuing the world pretty soon, a fact that her sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) who is more interested in boys than politics, sees with jealousy. Baby stumbles into the lives of the resort’s dance instructors during her stay. Trying to help with their problems, it puts her in the path of Johnny (Patrick Swayze). They fall in love, but things are not easy.

I have watched Dirty Dancing approximately a million times, but I think when I saw it this time, it was the first time that I didn’t see it in the German dub, but in the English original. That, combined with the fact that I’m a little older now, gave me an entirely new appreciation for the film: it’s not only a perfectly wonderful romance, it’s a huge political and feminist statement as well.

Even when I was younger, I wasn’t blind to the politics of Dirty Dancing: the film tackles the topic of abortion head-on (and that is still, unfortunately, a political issue and not just a health/medical issue), you can’t miss it. And I remember that even as a young girl, I was struck by the classism that Johnny experiences (although I wouldn’t have put it in those words, of course). But I don’t think that I realized just how revolutionary Dirty Dancing must have been at the time and probably still is today and how much complexity they allow, even in throw-away gestures. And I certainly never realized that Robbie (Max Cantor) was reading Ayn Rand which is simply perfect.

The thing is, that all of these pretty hard analyses of society from a feminst perspective are couched in romance and dance and music, taking none of the force of the observations but pushing them past the audience with them barely realizing what’s happening, but still getting the message (I think).

I like films with a political message, but Dirty Dancing isn’t just a vehicle for a statement, it is a wonderful romance as well. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to help but rooting for Baby and Johnny and seeing them get together just makes me happy, even for the billionth time.

And then there’s the great dancing and the even better soundtrack that is still a simply excellent collection of very good music. I really don’t need more to be happy with a film than this: Dirty Dancing really is the whole package.

Summarizing: eternal favorite.

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