I loved this incredible film! It's touching and brilliant. I was so moved by the story.
Take a look at this review from the Washington Post:
'Hotchkiss': Dance-Floor Redemption By Sarah Kaufman Washington Post
"Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School" has a clunky title but an elegant concept: that the fantasy of the fresh start is attainable for all of us. It's as easy as one, two, cha-cha-cha.
Yes, this is another one of those movies about finding your own soul, and perhaps a soul mate, on the dance floor. But "Marilyn Hotchkiss" demonstrates that the same old construct can be made thrillingly fresh with the right components. In fact, this film does other power- of-dance movies one better by downplaying the dancing -- it's in there, but doled out carefully -- and underscoring what its brethren often lack: a compelling, wrenching and wonderfully inspiring story.
It's the story of misfits, and how the most unforgettable girl on the dance floor is the one with the black eye. It's also the story of people locked in their pasts: their first kisses, dead wives, dead dreams. Robert Carlyle ("Angela's Ashes," "The Full Monty") plays Frank Keane, a baker on a delivery run who stumbles upon a horrific wreck on an otherwise deserted California highway. The accident victim has been nearly bifurcated by his car's crushed front end, but he's still lucid enough to implore the dumbstruck Frank to complete the mission he can't finish himself.
Since the dying man, who cordially introduces himself as Steve, is played by John Goodman, he doesn't just blurt out his tale in an agonized gasp. Instead, he unspools it in that signature sleepy-raspy voice, unhurried by his fading vitals, as undaunted by death as if he's simply waiting his turn in the barber's chair. Steve was on his way, he tells Frank, to an appointment he made 40 years ago. It's with a girl he fell in love with when he was 12 and they were forced into dance classes together by their parents. No matter what happened in the meantime, they promised each other, they would meet again at Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School -- on that very same day that Steve happened to meet up with an 18-wheeler first.
What follows is a deftly executed trick of weaving three different time spans together -- Frank's attempts to keep Steve talking as the paramedics work on him, Steve's flashbacks to an engagingly rendered 1960s childhood, and what happens to Frank when he goes to the dance school that night looking for Steve's lost love. As far-fetched as the plot seems (can someone really spill his guts while his guts are really spilling?), director Randall Miller, who also wrote the screenplay with his wife, Jody Savin, injects it with the emotional honesty and keen storytelling skills that make it work. (The feature is based on a short film by the same name that the couple created 15 years ago.)
A good deal of the success is due to the film's narrow psychological scope. The characters are all broken, and broken in the same way. Take Frank, saddled with the past, by choice. He drives a vintage truck, listens to oldies, lives amid dark wainscoting and vintage furnishings. He speaks in a rolling Old World brogue. A widower, he carries around his grief like a prized antique. He's past due for a good, solid shake-up, which is what he gets from that withered dance ticket Steve gives him.
Frank is part of a therapy circle of other messed-up widowers, among them the sweetly vulnerable Sean Astin ("The Lord of the Rings" hobbit Samwise Gamgee). And of course, the woman he meets on the dance floor (Marisa Tomei) is a train wreck. Nor is the present-day owner of the Hotchkiss school, the daughter (Mary Steenburgen) of the original Marilyn, all there herself. Steenburgen has a riveting star turn here: Her Marienne is weirdly remote and gracefully loopy, given to such whispery pronouncements as: "Dance is a powerful drug; it can exorcise your demons . . . and color your life in brilliant shades of magenta. . . . ARE YOU UP TO IT, Mr. Keane?"
Well, Mr. Keane is not at all sure. His first night at the dance school ends with him alone and anguished on a dance floor, even when surrounded by women who crave his attentions. It's a powerful scene, crafted with restraint, as are so many others in the film. There are terrifically telling details throughout: Goodman's big, moist, doughy jowls, spreading out on either side of that mouth that keeps talking even as he lies on the gurney, blood from his near- evisceration pooling on his chest; cut to a view of a mournful Frank kneading a big flabby ball of dough in his bakery.
Dancing soothes with its age-old balm. When men and women are isolated, when their hearts are sealed off, dancing -- especially ballroom dancing -- forces them to connect, to look each other in the eye, to hold hands and bring their bodies into sync. It opens the door to emotional freedom, passion, collaborative self-expression, as Frank finally discovers...
For all its drama and poignancy, "Marilyn Hotchkiss" doesn't deal in pat sentimentality or hokiness. What Steve passed on to Frank was something more than just a ticket to the dance; it was hope and stubborn optimism, no matter the obstacles. That lesson infuses the rest of the picture, and leaves its mark after it's over.