Mark Reviews Movies


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Thomas Carter

Cast: Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Terry Kinney, Kerry Washington, Fredro Starr

MPAA Rating: (for violence, sexual content, language, and brief drug references)

Running Time: 1:53

Release Date: 1/12/01

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Review by Mark Dujsik

Why must these ballet movies be so entertaining? Last year, I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed Center Stage, and now Iím even more surprised that Save the Last Dance was successful. I donít know whatís going on. How many times have we seen this story? A girl falls in love with a guy, but their love is questioned by everyone else. Thereís nothing new in this movie, but itís a very engaging take on the genre.

Sara (Julia Stiles) is a sheltered young girl from a suburb who moves to Chicago to live with her father after her motherís death. She brings with her the guilt that she thinks she caused her motherís death. You see, Sara is a ballet dancer, and she wanted her mother there when she auditioned for Julliard. On the way to see her daughter, Saraís mother is killed in a car crash. This story is all told in flashbacks as Sara rides the train to Chicago.

Upon arriving at the public school, she seems out of place. Sheís one of the few white people at this school, but no one seems to care. She begins to meet people including Chenille (Kerry Washington) and her group of friends. She starts to fit in and is invited to a club. She dances with Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), a guy she noticed earlier at school. Of course, they fall for each other. Derek is intelligent, and he has a friend Malakai (Fredro Starr) who is trapped in a violent lifestyle. Derek owes Malakai and there is a loyalty in the relationship I rarely see in movies of this nature.

This movie is much more intelligent than other movies of its kind. I liked the relationships the characters have with each other. They arenít simple friendships or romances; they are complicated human relationships. I donít think Iíve ever seen a teen-romance movie where the two lovers have an intelligent conversation about their relationship. In Save the Last Dance, the couple has a few. They talk about themselves, their motivations, their past, their dreams, their flaws. These are two people we can truly care about, and we hope their relationship grows.

This hope is probably the result of two very impressive performances by the leads. Julia Stiles is a very good young actress, and she does subtle things in her performance that give clues to her character. At one point, Chenille takes Saraís backpack to show how easy it is for things to get stolen in the school. After the bag is returned to her, Sara checks it very quickly. This action speaks much more about her character than any dialogue could. Her performance is full of these subtle touches, and I immensely appreciated them. Sean Patrick Thomas is also very good, but he shines in the scenes between Derek and Malakai. He helps make what could have been a simple relationship complex. We understand Derekís need to stay loyal to his friend, but we can also see the longing to stay away from him.

When I talk about the movie like this, I feel less guilty about my appreciation for it. This isnít a simple teen-flick. Itís a smart, complicated, mature love story. The leads shine and the relationship really grew on me. Thereís not much more to ask for in a movie like this.

Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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