Shall We Dance? is for any and everyone who can relate to what it means to be stuck in mediocrity.
Richard Gere gives a superb performance in this romantic, lighthearted story of just such a person. He plays John Clark, a happily married but overworked middle-aged man living in Chicago with his wife and teenage daughter.
On his daily train commute home one evening, he spies a beautiful woman gazing out a window with a lost look in her eyes. The building is a dance studio, and the window is up high, so night after night, he looks up, hoping to see her again, and each night he does. One evening he impulsively gets off the train and goes to the studio, though he’s not exactly sure why. He signs up for dance classes, and while Paulina, the woman he spied from the train, is not the instructor he’s assigned to, he continues to take classes each week and views her with quiet admiration from afar.
After a conversation with him raises her suspicions as to his motives for being there, the recently broken-hearted, strictly business dancer (played by Jennifer Lopez) makes it clear he’d better be there for dancing and not for her. First he leaves like a whipped puppy with his tale between his legs, deciding not to return again. But he discovers that not only has he come to love the quirky people and weekly break from his mundane routine, but he actually loves the dancing.
From there, the story takes off, and the chemistry that later lights up the screen between John and Paulina has nothing to do with sex and infidelity. There is none! Nonetheless, feeling guilty over his sudden need for happiness and fulfillment outside of the home, John keeps his dancing a secret from his family.
Susan Sarandon does a great job in her role as the loving but suspicious wife that has everything in the world to be concerned about, or so she thinks. After all, her husband is acting strange, and coming in late at the same time each week, with a different excuse, so naturally she suspect him of cheating.
Fueled by John’s secret, his wife’s suspicions, and Paulina’s personal demons, the movie takes on a momentum of its own. It culminates in an entertaining dance competition, with numbers reminiscent of Fred and Ginger. Reasons and motives revealed, misunderstandings cleared up, happy endings are all across the board.
I loved the movie because unlike I originally suspected, it wasn’t about a man wanting to cheat, but rather about a person wanting to be complete. This delightful little story lets you know its okay to want something out of the ordinary, something different in your hum drum life. It also sends the message that it’s never to late to go after that something. The day after I saw it, I went out and signed up for a Salsa class, something I’ve always wanted to do!