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Australia 1992
Directed by
Baz Luhrmann
94 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Strictly Ballroom

Although it gets off to a hesitant start with a faux-documentary style, this parody of the suburban Aussie ballroom dancing scene is a highly enjoyable modern fairytale  about being true to yourself with excellent art direction (Faith Martin), cinematography (Steve Mason), editing (Jill Bilcock) and direction by Baz Luhrmann.

Tara Morice plays the ugly duckling, Fran. who convinces the local dance school hottie, Scott (Paul Mercurio) to take her as a partner in his tilt at the Pan Pacific Championships. Well-scripted by Luhrmann with Craig Pearce and based on a N.I.D.A stage production devised and developed by the original cast it's both awash with tacky stereotypes and merciless in its feelgood manipulations.

Mercurio's dancing skills are without doubt whilst Morice makes for a credible plain Jane, the pair from tentative beginnings find love together (celebrated in the finale to the strains of Vanda and Young's irresistible 'Love Is In The Air"). It is not the predictable romance that carries the film however but rather its more florid aspects. On the one hand these come from the outrageously caricatural characters played with brio by the likes of Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides, Peter Whitford, John Hannan and in the best performance of his career, Barry Otto as Scott's put-upon father, on the other, from the wonderfully colourful art direction that gives us a fantasy sequence towards the end that is like a Split Enz video and moments such as Otto dancing alone under a Hills Hoist on a rooftop.

The film was deservedly a huge financial success and launched co-writer/director Luhrmann's international career but although he has gone on to bigger budgeted productions he has never done better than this.




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