I know John Robbie is of the opinion that Dirty Dancing is one of the worst movies of all time, but that must surely be because he has only seen four or five movies between rugby matches. There are MANY worse movies than Dirty Dancing. Just for the record, the actual worst movie of all time is The Valdez Horses with Charles Bronson. I have never met anybody who contradicted me on this mainly because I have never met anybody else that has seen the film. But take my word for it. It is really terrible.
Although Dirty Dancing may not have been one of the best movies of all time, it was a very moving and I think acute portrait of a young, not particularly pretty girl who falls in love with a bad boy, pisses off her father, and grows up in a very short period of time. What’s not to like about it? How is it unlikely, or offensive? It was certainly not dull, the plot was adequately on the mark and I thought the casting was so spot-on: the screechy sister, the self-important son of the manager, the asshole rich boy, the dancers, the Schoonmachers… I thought they were great.
Mostly, Baby and Johnny were brilliant. I am sorry that Patrick Swayze is dead. I am sorry that he looked so terrible when he died. I am glad he had a lovely wife who was with him when he went. I am not sure why I am saddened by his going. I loved Dirty Dancing. I think I am not an undiscerning movie goer, and I do get impatient with Hollywood crap. I don’t think he was a great actor, but somehow, he made a few movies that were important punctuation marks in my life. Dirty Dancing, I think, was one of them.
More than the bad-boy stuff, and the dancing (come on, John, the sequence with the very sexy hip grinding to “Will you love me tomorrow” must have moved you at least a little?), it was the relationship between Baby and her father that really moved me. Father/daughter relationships are complex and problematic, but I think the film touched the heart of it. Daughters are afraid of disappointing the first man in their life, even when they realise that he is not always right, that he will make mistakes, and that pleasing him is not really what life is about. It is an important moment when a girl chooses another man, or other men, and the break is traumatic. I think this moment was there, in Dirty Dancing, and I think John is wrong to dismiss the film outright.
So there are some unimaginative moments, some bad acting, and some convenient turning points in the plot. Perhaps the loose ends are tied up too neatly: perhaps Patrick’s final speech on the stage there has a bit of cringe-factor. But one of the worst movies of all time? Not in a million years, I honestly believe that. You just don’t know what crap they churn out only in France each year that we never get to see. Really.
And then there were others: Roadhouse, To Wong Foo, Ghost and Point Break which I absolutely loved. I give it extra credit because Kathryn Bigelow was the first female Hollywood director to make a kick-ass mainstream action flick, and one that contributed seminal moments to the genre: the great chase scene on foot – the entire opening sequence shot on steadicam. It was smart and sexy and probably the only film in which Keanu Reeves actually ekes out some sort of a performance. (He cunningly managed to almost duplicate this achievement many years later in the Matrix movies.)
Anyway. Much more can be said, good and bad. His mullet was no worse than its contemporary sported by Mel Gibson at the time. In general, his acting was OK. He never made huge scandal, although it seemed he liked to drink too much. There were pictures of him looking thin and haggard towards the end, but smoking defiantly. He will never feature in the Greatest of All Time Book, but there really was something about him. I am not sure why I am sad about his death, but I am.