Eye For Film >> Movies >> Save The Last Dance (2001) Film Review
There is an odd combination of ghetto high school vibe and Flashdance sentimentality about this, aided by Julia Stiles' intelligent performance and abetted by Sean Patrick Thomas' sensitivity.
It has the fairytale Hollywood stamp on it, although director Thomas Carter takes trouble to shoot outside in the cold winter streets of Chicago. As with Saturday Night Fever, he injects a semblance of realism.
Sara's dream to become a ballet dancer is shattered when her mother is killed in a car crash and she has to go and live with her jazz musician father (Terry Kinney), whom she hardly knows, in a grotty apartment on Chicago's South Side. This also means attending the neighbourhood school, which is tough, black and bristling with attitude.
She is befriended by a teenage single mother, Chenille (Kerry Washington) whose brother, Derek (Thomas), is the hip-hop king of the club scene, as well as being a serious student with ambitions to becoming a doctor. His best friend from younger days is Malakai (Fredro Starr), a budding gang leader.
Derek teaches Sara how to dance to rap rhythms, and as the two draw closer, resentment erupts amongst his old girlfriends. Meanwhile, Malakai attempts to persuade Derek to go on a rumble. Sara auditions for Julliard, incorporating some of Derek's moves into her free association section.
The racial division is well-handled. The love story feels genuine and the tensions it creates are neither ignored nor washed.
Derek is every middle-class mother's ideal of a young man - polite, conscientious and talented. Thomas gives him a life that feels better than true.
Stiles has an advantage over more glamorous teenage stars. She concentrates on character, rather than sex appeal. In this way, Sara can be distressed, sad and angry, as well as confused, determined and happy.
The script is formulaic and the acting committed to something stronger than stereotype. As for the dancing, it is an education.Reviewed on: 30 Mar 2001