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Shall We Dance is just adorable.
It's another mid-life crisis movie, but unlike other films in this genre, it doesn't have a bleak, hopeless view of things, or even suggest that a midlife crisis is some great adversity that shows what a loser the person going through the crisis is. Instead, it argues that every once in a while, it's good to shake things up.
It begins when attorney John Clark, played by Richard Gere, catches a glimpse of Paulina, Jennifer Lopez's character, looking wistfully out the window of a dance studio. He does this as he takes the train home, as he feels like he has, every day, day in and day out, for what seems like forever. And the image of this beautiful woman inspires him to find her, and find out who she is. She's a dance instructor, and John promptly joins her class.
What starts out as an excuse to meet this beautiful woman turns out to be the best decision John ever made, as he finds that he really enjoys dancing. It gives him the new lease on life that he was hoping for, but his wife gets suspicious, wondering where he disappears to every night, and endeavors to find out. And then it goes down (or up, depending on how you look at it) hill from there.
What's great about this film is that nobody - even people who would be in lesser films - is a bad guy. Gere's character initially strikes us as a philanderer. We find that isn't necessarily the case. There's a detective in this film who we assume is going to be a sleaze. That's not quite so either. There's a teenage daughter who isn't a brat. An effeminate guy who isn't gay. And so on. Seriously, what I liked about Shall We Dance is that it has a lot of opportunities to be negative and never goes there, instead redeeming all of its characters, who come off negatively at first, which I think is the theme of the film. Again, this movie is not even about how a midlife crisis means you were a loser in life - it has an optimistic outlook toward everything that happens, and gives you that "warm and fuzzy" thing that people look for in "feel good" films. But instead of doing it with schmalz, or cliches, or any of that other crap that makes "the feel good movie of the year" so unbearable, this movie just tells its simple story nicely, with a true sense of fun and positivity. In our cynical times, it's rare to find a movie like this about this subject matter, even rarer to find a good Jennifer Lopez movie since the "Benifer" fiasco, making this a pleasant surprise. Shall We Dance is sweet, and I liked that.
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