Take the Lead
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film includes some images of violence, as well as references to painful past deaths (two kids' siblings were killed in gang violence). A frustrated boy smashes his principal's car with a bar; a gun is drawn near the film's end, and a crew who deals drugs and stolen materials beats up their reluctant member (some blood visible on his face, as he finally makes it to the ballroom competition). The dancing is sometimes very formal, often very sexualized (especially the tango, salsa, and hip-hop moves). Characters deal drugs, threaten violence, smoke cigarettes, and drink.
What's the story?
In TAKE THE LEAD, New York ballroom dancing teacher Pierre (Antonio Banderas) begins teaching a group of troubled high school students. He's first stymied, then embraced by the flinty-then-warm principal (Alfre Woodard). Though his students -- assigned to detention hall for various infractions -- resist his initial efforts to "express themselves" through dance (and especially, disdain his romantic oldies music), they do come to appreciate his dedication, and the fact that he brings in one of his upscale, white, and very snobby students, Morgan (Katya Virshilas), to show the proper execution of the tango. The boys' eyes predictably pop ("It's like sex on hardwood!") and the girls appreciate Morgan's deft athleticism. Pierre and his toughest student, Rock (Rob Brown), test one another, learn to trust one another, and come up with a mutually respectful relationship by film's end.
Is it any good?
Liz Friedlander's fiction film is well-meaning and energetic. It skews older than the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom (though both are inspired by the same NYC program), and features more acrobatic camerawork and slicker editing. This means the movie grants the kids an inevitable endpoint: an entertaining dance competition where they combine hip-hop and ballroom strategies.
Yet while Rock is "developed" in relation to several characters, most of the students never get out from under their initial stereotypes. The film alludes to the students' complex lives and "issues" but they're resolved in the fiction more simplistically than are the younger kids' dilemmas in the documentary. And the Michelle Pfeiffer plot is corny. Even the diligent, compassionate widower Pierre gets a girlfriend by the end.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the options available for the dance students. How might their dance training help them in other aspects of their lives (getting a job, looking after children and parents, continuing their educations)? How does the film set up a connection between their home-life conflicts and their work in the dance class?