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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by David James)

photo caption:
JSMOOTH DANCER: John Clarke (Richard Gere, right) puts the moves on his wife, Beverly Clark (Susan Sarandon) even though his mid life crisis has led him to romance Paulina, played by Jennifer Lopez, on the side.
end caption.

"Shall We Dance?": Gere Goes Gaga Over J-Lo in Adaptation of Japanese Romantic Comedy

Review by Kam Williams

In 1997, Miramax enjoyed the surprise sleeper of the summer when it imported Shall We Dansu, a comedy written and directed by Masayuki Suo. Superficially, the movie appeared to be about a middle-aged accountant who decided to break the monotony of his daily routine by secretly taking ballroom dancing lessons.

However, the movie also served as an indictment of the confining culture of Japan, making statements about the society's stifling nature. Apparently the idea of a married man dancing with a woman who was not his wife was considered scandalous there.

Suo presented his protagonist as a successful family man who had come to find his existence so predictable that he became miserable. Miserable until he indulged his curiosity about the forlorn looking teacher he saw standing in her studio window every day as he passed by on an elevated subway train.

Although America doesn't share the same mores which gave the original film its deeper significance, Miramax decided to remake the movie anyway. To its credit, the company has produced an adaptation which will easily stand on its own.

Shall We Dance, directed by Peter Chelsom (Serendipity), stars Richard Gere as John Clark, an attorney with a flourishing practice at a top Chicago law firm, and Jennifer Lopez as Paulina, the mysterious beauty for whom he enrolls at Miss Mitzi's Dance School.

Susan Sarandon co-stars as Beverly, John's spouse. Between her own high-profile job as a cosmetics executive and her responsibilities as homemaker to their two teenagers, it takes Beverly a while to notice that her husband might be spending those late work nights somewhere other than at his office.

Shall We Dance is similar to Unfaithful, where Gere was an unsuspecting spouse cuckolded by his bored housewife. Here, his character is the one with the mid-life crisis.

Dance's storyline remains true to that of Dansu, though some subplots have been added, considerably embellished, to enable colorful performances by Stanley Tucci, Nick Cannon, Lisa Ann Walter, Anita Gillette, Bobby Cannavale, Richard Jenkins, and Omar Benson Miller.

The action builds inexorably to a big ballroom competition which coincides with John's bigger admission to his wife. Gere acquits himself admirably on the floor opposite the accomplished J-Lo, a woman who has danced on stage and in music videos.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG-13 for sexual references and brief profanity. Running time: 106 minutes. Distributor: Miramax.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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