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Strictly Ballroom

July 16, 2021

Strictly Ballroom (1992)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Actors: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter

Strictly Ballroom – R. H. Rae

Synopsis: Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) is the star dancer of the Waratah ballroom scene, and when he starts to rebel against its stuffy conventions, he finds the perfect ‘surprise’ partner to shock everyone.

Review: What may now seem dated about this ironic, mocu-narrative set around the dramas of the Waratah ballroom scene, was actually fairly novel when this was released some 30 years ago.

It certainly heralded the bold, histrionic aesthetic that director Baz Luhrmann was to essay in even greater and more popular effect through Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001). There’s Luhrmann’s unmistakably cartoonish feel for storytelling – from the quick cuts, the wacky close-ups, the garish colour scheme, and the screwball framing device of a retrospective interview involving all the participants.

Even if it all feels a tad forced and not particularly funny (most of the ‘wacky’ conceits didn’t wash with this viewer at least), there’s no denying that it’s carried through with a relentless farcical drive from its very first moments. And, if anything, I’d even go as far as to argue that it’s perhaps more appealing in the serious, dramatic moments than in its overarching comic tone. (July 2021)

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