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Shall We Dance?
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has brief strong language and some unnecessary homophobic humor, particularly a gratuitous last-minute twist. There are sexual references and jokes, including references to adultery, but in general the characters' behavior is loyal and respectful. Characters drink and there are scenes in bars.
What's the story?
Chicago lawyer John Clark (Richard Gere) writes wills. He listens to people sum up their lives -- their assets, their liabilities, their legacies. When it's done, they ask, "Is that it, then?" and he tells them, "That's it for the paperwork. The rest is up to you." John likes his job and he loves his wife, son, and daughter. But riding home on the El train, he sees a woman standing in the second-story window of a ballroom dance studio and her expression of sadness and longing as she gazes into the darkness somehow unleashes his own wish for something more. So one night, he walks into the dance studio and signs up for the beginners class. His fellow students are Vern, a huge, shy man who says he wants to learn so he can dance at his upcoming wedding, and Chic (Bobby Cannavale of The Station Agent), who says he is there to learn to dance so he can impress girls.
Is it any good?
SHALL WE DANCE? not only shows viewers the longing felt by its characters, it draws them in to sharing those feelings with them. Jennifer Lopez, meanwhile, gives a performance of great delicacy and skill, showing viewers Paulina's fragility and dignity. And the music and dancing are sublime. You want John, Vern, and Chic to find their steps and rhythm. You may just do a little dancing of your own on your way home.
Each man is there because he wants to dance. John begins to see himself differently when he finds a way to move to music. His wife suspects an affair and hires a pair of detectives (Richard Jenkins of Six Feet Under and Nick Cannon from Drumline) to follow him. Though John is drawn to the melancholy dance teacher it is more out of curiosity and compassion than romance, and in the end, he finds an unexpected connection with a colleague from the office and with his own family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about talk about why it was hard for John and Beverly to be honest with each other. What was John missing? Which characters changed the most, and why? What could you do that would change your life the way dancing changed the lives of John, Vern, and Chic?