Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Film Review: Take the Lead

I have always enjoyed watching films that involve a plot that centers around dancing so I had a preconceived idea of what to expect of Take the Lead—I expected it to be well done, keeping me yearning for more. Yet there was something missing that left me with an empty feeling. The movie was good, but far from what I expected it to be. I hadn’t realized that Take the Lead was based on a true story of a dance teacher named Pierre Dulain.

The film describes the struggle Dulain endures to give a group of problem kids a second chance by searching for their dance skills. One night Dulain is shocked to see one of the students, Rock, destroy his principal’s car. The following day, Dulain goes to the school to ask for a job as a dance teacher. She has little faith in him and his idea to reform detention kids through ballroom dancing, yet she lets him oversee the detention anyway. The kids don’t see his objective as a great idea. They don’t see how ballroom dancing could help city kids like themselves who are much more interested in dancing to hip-hop and rap. Despite criticism from his formal dance academy, parents, teachers and students alike, Dulain is determined to make a difference. He catches their attention through a tango session with one of his students from his formal dance academy.

Throughout his efforts, he eventually finds out that the kids just need guidance in the right direction; they need inspiration and leadership. Once the students overcome their skepticism, they compete in a dance contest and along with Mr. Dulain, they realize that the important thing isn’t winning, but making a difference. A lesson they learn is to take the lead and never follow.
My attention was grasped at the beginning of the film when the director chose to cut between different shots of the characters who would be involved with the story of Take the Lead. Each shot tells a little bit of the history of each character, leading the viewer to believe that the story begins with the competition. Cut to a hip-hop dance party and the viewer realizes that the story is just beginning, affectively sucking them into finding out what happens next and what those beginning scenes were all about in relation to the rest of the movie.

Throughout the film, the focus is on Mr. Dulain struggles to prove to all his critics that what he is doing has a purpose and will work in the end. There is a constant battle between Dulain and the students and once the students begin to accept his offer to learn ballroom dancing, he teaches them ballroom dancing. In the end he teaches them more than just how to dance, he teaches them self-respect and that they can do whatever they put their minds to and most of all, that they can make a difference. Watching him teach them of all this, I was hoping that he would get more involved and actually dance. It is disappointing that Pierre Dulain (Antonio Banderas) didn’t dance so much in this film, though it is interesting to see the way he was portrayed as a teacher.

The different shots revealed him as the watchful coach with a critical yet firm eye. He was influential and creative, perceptive and resourceful. He watched from the sidelines, stepping in only when he was needed. Dulain connected with his students on a level that touched their lives forever, giving them a perspective on a life they never dreamed possible. The director did an excellent job portraying Pierre Dulain as a determined and successful person who started out with a dream and succeeded with determination, knowledge, and the skill to Take The Lead.

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