Dirty Dancing [retro review]

rdirtydancing“NOBODY puts Baby in the corner!”

The Scoop: 1987 PG-13, directed by Emile Ardolino and starring Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey and Cynthia Rhodes

Tagline: Have the time of your life

Summary Capsule: Brooding hood with twinkle toes sweeps unsuspecting good girl off her feet – literally.

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Clare’s Rating: There are only a few basic irrefutable truths in the known universe. One of them just happens to be that nobody puts Baby in the corner.

Clare’s Review: In celebration of my ongoing bout with some of the worst PMS in recorded history, I have decided it’s about damn time this site reviewed a movie perfect for us gals who, occasionally, must find refuge from our own horrifying hormones by diving head long into anything and everything we can find that brings us comfort. Comfort in movie form, for me anyway, is Dirty Dancing. Yes, this movie is made entirely of cheese. It’s trite. It’s manipulative. It’s a DANCE movie for Jerry Orbach’s sake. But for my money, it’s one of the best guilty pleasure girlie flicks ever made.

I’ve seen it so many times that recapping the basic story line seems kind of hilarious to me. But I’ll try.

Dirty Dancing is about a wide eyed, precocious, teenager named Francis (Jennifer Gray) who, for some ungodly reason, actually prefers to be called “Baby”. She and her family go to the Catskills for a three week vacation at one of those old timey resorts that specializes in things like organized sack races and charades. Oh. And it’s set in the 1960’s so the audience understands right away that things like lust and fornication hadn’t yet been invented, so all this squeaky clean fun has no irony attached to it at all.

But it doesn’t take long for the seedy underbelly of Happytown, USA to be rooted out and that’s when things start to get “good”. Turns out that after hours, when all the old people in loveless marriages have gone to sleep in their separate beds, the dancers at the resort get together for watermelon and some old fashioned bumping and grinding. HOW NAUGHTY! The resident head stud of the dancers is Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), the best named bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold in movie history. He’s from the wrong side of the tracks, rough around the edges and completely hot. (Sorry people. I’ll go to my grave declaring Patrick Swayze’s hotness in this movie. My opinion in this matter can not be swayze’d).

Soon enough, Johnny and Baby meet and after a somewhat convincing set of plot twists, they embark together in a desperate bid to see each others nipples. I mean train Baby to dance at a show as a favor to another, out of commission, dancer. A few groin pulls and “Hungry Eyes” later, love is in the air. But will Baby’s father allow his unspoiled daughter to be sullied by the likes of some street punk in tap shoes? And will the resort let Johnny bring the place into the 20th Century with his, um, innovative dance moves? Only a long, drawn out, overly choreographed finale can provide us with the answers we seek.

Dirty Dancing came out in theaters when I was all of 12 years old. So my attachment to it is rooted deeply in nostalgia. However, I’ve watched it pretty regularly since my 12th year on Earth and still find it entertaining. I wish I could say that I love Dirty Dancing because it’s so much fun to make merciless fun of (which, really, it kind of is). The truth, however, is that I love Dirty Dancing because I actually love it. I always buy into the fun and nervousness associated with Baby and Johnny finding themselves attracted to one another. I always get choked up when Baby confronts her father on the deck and they both cry like little inconsolable, melodramatic infants. I always stop and rewind the “sex” scene in Johnny’s room to look at Patrick Swayze’s ribs and Jennifer Gray’s funny, perfect, old lady bra. I always wait in breathless anticipation for Johnny to look Baby’s father in the eye and tell him, with unbelievably believable conviction, that nobody puts Baby in the corner.

I’m not embarrassed to admit any of that. Because in trying times like these, when I find myself feeling irrevocably fat and unendingly moody, there is a real, palpable salvation found in watching a movie that’s unabashedly good hearted, filled with schmaltz and un-ironically about how dancing can save us from the limitations we put on our own joy.

"Now, bark like a dog."  "Woofies!"

"Now, bark like a dog." "Woofies!"

Intermission!

  • Clare’s dream car getting seriously mistreated. (insert the sound of Clare’s horrified weeping here)
  • Jennifer Grey’s first nose
  • The song “She’s Like the Wind” was sung by star Patrick Swayze.
  • Throughout the film, Johnny and Baby always wear contrasting colors, Baby in very light colors, and Johnny in black or something very dark.
  • You can see Jennifer Grey’s body stocking during the first sex scene.
  • Baby mouths the words “I carried a watermelon?!” twice.

Groovy Quotes

Baby: Me? I’m scared of everything! I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you!

Johnny Castle: You just put your pickle on everybody’s plate college boy, and leave the hard stuff to me.

Johnny: Yo cuz, What’s she doing here?
Billy: She’s with me. She came with me.
Baby Houseman: I carried a watermelon.
Baby to herself: I carried a watermelon?!?

Penny: Go back to your playpen…Baby.

Johnny (putting Baby’s hand over his heart): Guh-gung… Guh-gung. Feel the rhythm. Guh-gung… Guh-gung.

Penny: Oh, come on, ladies! God wouldn’t have given you maracas if He didn’t want you to shake ’em!

Johnny: Nobody puts Baby in the corner!

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9 Comments

  1. I remember my brother and dad had gone somewhere and would be gone for the weekend, so my mom and I decided to have “girl’s nights” and camp out in the living room. We watched movies and ate snacks and I got to pull out one of the sleeping bags. At six or seven this was like the coolest thing ever.

    One of the movies we rented was Dirty Dancing, and that’s when it happened: My first actor crush. Head over heels “he’s dreamy” crush.

    Also, the movie made me want to dance. It wouldn’t be until I saw Singin’ in the Rain that I decided on tap (though I would also take ballet and jazz), but this was the one that made me think ‘I want to learn to do that!’ I was a sickly and weak kid, but I was totally inspired to try and not give up.

    I go back and watch Dirty Dancing today (on my upgraded DVD copy) and find it remarkable that such a simple movie had such an effect on me. But it did, and the movie and Patrick Swayze will always have a special place in my heart. And the soundtrack is one of the best ever!

    So remember, have a Swayze Christmas this year.

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