Based on an idea by director Baz Luhrmann ,which was then developed into a play through various stage productions over a number of years, Strictly Ballroom is a film full of spellbinding visuals, colourful costumes and well choreographed dance sequences, making it hard to deny the grace, sensuality, intoxicating rhythm and hilarious slapstick shown throughout.
Paul Mercurio stars as Scott Hastings, a champion ballroom dancer who is dumped by his dancing partner Liz (Gia Carides) and criticised by the dancing community due to his use of “new steps” during competition.
With the Pan Pacific championship only three weeks away, high expectations are placed on Scott to return to the standard dance techniques and partner up with champion dancer Tina Sparkle (Sonia Kruger). But Scott has different plans when he unexpectedly finds himself falling in love with Fran (Taro Morice), an ugly duckling with limited dancing experience who unleashes her inner beauty and overcomes her fear of failure through her feelings with Scott and the guidance of her traditionalist Spanish family.
However, there are elements that try and keep Scott and Fran apart, most notably Scott’s domineering mother Shirley (Pat Thompson and the corrupt president of the dance board, Barry Fife (Bill Hunter.)
The performances are varied.
In the lead role, Paul Mercurio – who although an excellent dancer – gives a flat performance, breaking out a solid pout akin to Ben Stiller’s “blue steel” (as seen in Zoolander) to substitute for his lack of acting talent.
Tara Morice, however, comes across much better portraying a sensitivity and pure beauty which counteracts the excessive make up and dress worn by the other female characters in the movie.
Australian veterans Bill Hunter and Barry Otto are great, as is Pat Thompson as the humiliated mother constantly trying to save face.
The film contains a number of traditional plot points; the clashing of old and new conventions, the ugly girl who turns into a beautiful young woman and the sins of the parents bestowed upon their children are the most apparent. But the environment which it is set in – the ballroom dancing circuit in suburban Australia – makes Strictly Ballroom a rewarding and unique movie experience, and all on a low budget to boot.