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  • I caught this film at the Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuck Michigan. Directed by Randall Miller and a star filled cast, this film was the best of the festival, and may be one of my favorites of the year. The film begins with baker Robert Carlyle driving down a deserted highway. He comes upon a stranger in a car wreck, played by John Goodman, and the two talk with each other, waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Goodman tells Carlyle of his planned reunion with his childhood love at the place mentioned in the title.

    This beautiful film is wonderfully acted, with such stars as Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, Donnie Wahlberg, David Paymer, and Ernie Hudson. I loved the story, I didn't realize you could do so much with such a simple outline. I loved the structure of the film, the way it was edited and shot. There were some very funny moments, very touching moments, and overall it's just a great experience. Some of the filmmakers showed up for the festival and had some great stories to tell. The movie was originally made 15 years ago as a short film of the same title, and a lot of the scenes from the short film are used in the feature as flashback scenes (I knew I saw Donkeylips from Salute Your Shorts).

    I think with such an all-star cast and such a good story, this film will at least get release in major cities. So if you get the chance, check this movie out.
  • The film's use of two voices relaying three narrative threads, artfully woven without confusion while maintaining audience interest and focus, could be used as a textbook for compound story structure. If the story hadn't been expanded from a short film thereby requiring this approach, I'd be heaping superlative praise on its inventiveness as well.

    Entertaining, well-cast with excellent performances by its ensemble of seasoned character actors, and just quirky enough to offset its sometimes saccharin character, I think this will grow a deserved following when it airs on cable. A solid illustration of the possibility of 'charm' in contemporary cinema, it presented little violence beyond its illustration of an automobile accident site and the language of adolescent boys, and managed a passionate but never prurient love scene under cover of a liberal dusting of flour.

    Enchanting!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There is something about Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School that audiences will find enchanting. The script is quite good, but not overwhelming. The acting very solid, but maybe not as good as I would have expected from Robert Carlyle, John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen, Marisa Tomei and plenty of other all-stars. And cinematography was used in some interesting ways to delineate three different periods, which provided perspective, but was hardly revolutionary.

    But the beauty of the movie is really none of these. Robert Carlyle plays Frank Keane, a baker (from a long line of bakers in the family business) recovering from the tragic loss of his wife. One day while driving he encounters a car wreck, and begins to talk to the mortally wounded driver, Steve (John Goodman). What unfolds is the interweaving of stories—Steve's experience as a 12-year-old in the Marilyn Hotchkiss School, and Frank's as he fulfills a promise to the dying Steve.

    What emerges, rather remarkably, is a story filled with tragedy that nevertheless manages to be warm, light-hearted, nostalgic, funny and inspiring. Carlyle seems an unlikely protagonist, but his character gradually blossoms into someone that is quietly heroic, as his encounter with Goodman takes him on a path of exploration, self-discovery and love. Director Randall Miller has done a remarkable job of telling a story filled with meaningful insight and compassionate charm. I flat out loved this movie, as did the rest of the audience at Sundance.
  • This movie got it right where a bunch of other movies have gotten it totally wrong. Most movies about grieving and loss gloss over what it really feels like to lose someone, but Hotchkiss' really makes you feel how alone Frank is after losing his wife before you see him begin to learn how to let go and move on. The cast in this movie (John Goodman, Danny Devito, Marisa Tomei, Donnie Wahlberg, Sean Astin) is stronger than most big budget Hollywood movies (Robert Carlyle is really amazing here!) but this isn't an 'indie' film with boring camera shots and amateurish productions, it's very stylishly shot and incredibly well-done all around. Best of both worlds.
  • It took a while before i felt involved with the film and the characters. However, once more characters started joining the dance class i started to look forward to every scene in the ballroom. Robert Carlyle was obviously the lead role but Mary Steenburgen was fabulous. She was funny but serious and assertive, and her wardrobe throughout the movie evolved along with her character. A nice, subtle touch. As was the gentleman who starts and stops the music for her during the film, i think his name was Freeway? I started looking forward to every time he hit play on that tiny boom box and hearing the music boom through the theater sound. Overall i really enjoyed the film even though it started a little slow.
  • n756tk16 March 2005
    I saw this movie at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. It truly was a wonderful package. All parts come together. After the film, the audience gave it a standing applause. It was a hit with the audience, including myself. I would see it again. Robert Carlyle was very good as the sympathetic baker, consumed by his wife's death, and inadvertently drawn into an emergency situation. The director/writer incorporates his older film of a boy's experience of being forced to go to dance and charm school, melding it perfectly with the now adult man's perception played by John Goodman. Others in the film were Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen, Donnie Wahlber, and Sean Astin, all giving a wonderful performance.
  • Though certainly not about a new and unique topic in entertainment, this film presents a multi-dimensional perspective about experiences that we all, as human beings, can relate.

    The films unique approach, and the actors sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic execution causes a myriad of emotions to surface during the development of the plot. The audience laughs, cries, and I was personally touched by both the plot transitions and the elegant development of the characters and story line throughout the film.

    The film provoked reflection in the audience by asking questions and allowing this moviegoer to connect many life experiences to the film. So many movies today are developed for entertainment purposes only, usually either through special effects or dark, dismal shock factor. This film differentiated itself by not wrapping everything up in a pretty little package, leaving room for discussion and interpretation. And Mary Steenburgen's performance was easily one of the best I've seen at the entire film festival.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I loved this movie and sobbed my heart out at the end. I'm a sappy kinda gal and it wrenched my heart strings good and proper. I love the fact that the story is based on a short clip the director, Randall Miller made some 15 years ago, which he embellished into a full story about finding your joy again after the loss of a loved one.

    All around the performances were superb. I was very taken by Robert Carlyle's grief stricken husband, who happens upon a tragic accident and fulfils the dying person's (John Goodman) last wish to visit the place where he was travelling to - Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, where he was meant to meet his long lost sweetheart on the 5th day of the 5th month of the 5th year of the Millennium.

    The story seems crazy, but it worked for me as Frank Keane (Carlyle) becomes involved with the decorums, courtesies and fancies that the ballroom dancing class has to offer and also finds love in the shape of Meredith Morrison (played delicately by Marisa Tomei).

    There's a great supporting cast of zany characters that will have you laughing at their antics as girl tries to snare boy on the ballroom dance floor. The shenanigans are lead by the wondering Mary Steenburgen, who shows such great poise and gentility as Miss Marienne Hotchkiss, carrying on the tradition of her long departed mother Marylyn.

    Another outstanding performance was by Donnie Wahlberg, as the overly overprotective step-brother to Meredith, Randall Ipswitch, who has a passion for ballroom dancing and domestic violence. It is his life. Donnie has become a fantastic character actor and deserves much more credit than he gets.

    I would have liked a slightly better ending to the John Goodman storyline, but no matter. The movie was great IMHO and touched me to the core.

    Go see this movie when it comes out. You'll never be the same again.
  • I loved the movie. I hope you get a chance to see it and it comes to your area. Its a great life story. John Goodman plays a man who is trying to return to his childhood girlfriend. Robert Carlyle finds him in his hour of need, and agrees to meet the childhood girlfriend for him

    Robert Carlyle and Marisa Tomei are so wonderful together. The story of their meeting and falling and love is very romantic.

    Mary Steenburgen is outstanding in her role as the dance instructor.

    And Donnie Wahlberg steals the movie with his character.

    Its a movie filled with outstanding actors. And a very touching and moving story. With great childhood stories.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie was so incredibly sweet! I really loved how the Robert Carlyle's character learns to love (and live) again. John Goodman was amazing telling his story, and the flashback scenes with the kids were so sweet.

    I loved how John Goodman's character passes on his destiny to Robert Carlyle's character, and how everyone's life is impacted. This is a wonderful story of love and loss and moving forward. The dancing may not be brilliant, but it's not about the dancing. It's about real people learning to dance and learning so much more in the process. It's about people actually connecting with each other.

    The supporting cast was awesome! There were so many people I recognized. Mary Steenburgen was just brilliant was the eccentric dance teacher, and Donnie Wahlberg was so funny as the jealous step-brother. And so many more celebrities - Sean Astin, Camyrn Manheim, Danny DeVito, Adam Arkin -- the list goes on and on.

    I highly recommend this wonderful film. It made me laugh and cry. It made me want to dance!
  • The is by far the finest film that I have seen all year... Robert Carlyle was superb as the broken widower. I lost my wife to cancer four years ago and his portrayal was dead on. John Goodman was magnificent as were Mary Steenburgen as the beleaguered and out of touch Marianne Hotchkiss, the Grand Damne of the ballroom. And Donnie Wahlberg was brilliant in comic turn as Randall Ipswitch, the Lord-Of-The-Dance of the Pasadena ballroom. But finally the Marisa Tomei character, Meredith was perhaps the finest bit of acting in the bunch. Her work as the broken and beaten down sister of Donnie's character was dead on. I cannot recommend the film highly enough. GO SEE IT!!!!
  • Being a ballroom dancer this was pretty much a "required viewing." It was a little different from what I expected, but it was still worth the time. I've read the feelings of a lot of dancers who have rated this movie lower than I did. I would guess that they come by their opinions based on the fact that dancing to them, is a competition sport and that's how they always look at it. My feeling towards dancing would probably be more in line with those of Mary Ann Hotchkiss and Mr. Keane. "Dance is a very powerful drug Mr. Keane. If embraced judiciously, it can exorcise demons, access deep seated emotions and color your life in joyous shades of brilliant magenta that you never knew existed. But, one must shoulder its challenges with intrepid countenance if one is ever to reap its rewards." Get this movie, curl up on the couch with your honey and enjoy a very nice, sweet movie about searching for, and finding reasons for going on, even when life seems so pointless.
  • saw it last nite at a complimentary screening. it was well worth seeing if only for robert carlyle's performance alone! he was absolutely extraordinary! i found mary steenburgen very affected, though, & was consciously aware that she was acting! i can't understand all the positive comments about her performance in this movie, though i absolutely adore her in other things (she was so great in joan of arcadia on TV, for example). i liked the interweaving of past & present & the way story lines played out & were connected eventually. it was well told. it integrated pathos with humor & had many unexpected touches. some of the acting was like caricature - e.g., donny wahlberg's, & i did not enjoy that type of aspect whenever it occurred. but on the whole i felt this was a well crafted film of value and substance. i'm glad i saw it.
  • This movie was savaged by every critic on earth, which pretty much confirmed my opinion that critics are all stupid. Yeah, it was kinda' sappy, but I thought it worked for the film. Contrary to many reviews, I thought John Goodman's performance was excellent. The ensemble cast carried the movie well. It wasn't "Becket", but it was totally watchable. You have to pay pretty close attention. They don't whack you over the head with exposition the way some films do. The one thing I will say is that there are a few plot and character elements that just seem to be thrown in there for no apparent reason. If you can get past that, the movie makes it's points well and clearly, if not completely originally.
  • One of the best low budget movies. A lot of heart, right cast for every role. This is exactly what our theater needs. I was touched by everyone. Robert Carlyle is amazing. Quality actor with the right touch. A real September Movie. the ambiance of the movie gives you the feeling that you are in a real story. the feeling is that you are dancing with Mary and and Marisa and Robert is great, it is passing you a good emotional moment. A good movie done by good director based on a very good idea. Something you can sympathy with. I love it and I hope you will too.

    Thank you very much

    Roi
  • I love quiet little independent films and this one was more than I expected. So many well-known actors who must have seen the film as a labor of love instead of a big paycheck. I think it showed in their performances. Robert Carlyle had such a heavy sadness about him and watching him come out of his self-imposed solitude was one of the nicest things about the movie. There were so many sweet little moments and I've always liked John Goodman, his inability to correct some of the regrets he had in life would resonate with many of us. The scenes with the men together in group therapy were familiar to anyone who ever experienced the deep loss of a life partner. This movie contains both grief and joy too, which is pretty much what life contains if we are lucky enough to love someone and be loved in return.
  • I am not a film maker or film student, just like movies and watch way more than I should. This is not the type of movie I would generally watch but because I like Robert Carlyle I gave it a chance. I am glad I did.

    I forgive the fact there are no great dancers in the film as it isn't about dance and most in the classes are students, children, older...in essence, they aren't dancers and most are probably not there to become expert dancers.

    It IS a movie that looks to tug at the heartstrings and manipulate the emotions but most movies are trying to illicit a response, an emotional reaction, of some kind. This movie did a good job.

    Personally I had a hard time investing emotionally in this movie but it gradually weakened my resolve and I started caring about the characters.

    Indeed it is an older short film encapsulated in an updated shell and secondary story but to be honest, the characters (and a few were real characters), anachronisms and all, were still just as interesting and was worked into the new overarching story quite well.

    Any weakness of this story, this project, was ably work around by a great cast that did seem to immerse themselves in their roles. Its not a perfect film, it overtly tugs at the heartstrings, sappy, some comedy. I recommend it but it certainly isn't going appeal to all.

    I wish they had credited 'freeway' the boombox button pusher...it was a funny touch, one of a few minor quirky characters both modern and flashback, little touches that added to the enjoyment of the movie.
  • Frank (Robert Carlyle) is a widowed baker, trying to recover from his wife's sudden death. As he is driving the highway, one day, he comes across a serious auto accident involving a single driver, Steve (John Goodman). Told to keep the man conscious through conversation, Frank learns that Steve was on his way to a dance class appointment he made, 40 years ago, with a young girl he had a crush on! He begs Frank, when he can, to go to the Marilyn Hotchkiss Dance and Charm School, find Lisa and tell her why he couldn't make it. Frank does so, reluctantly, much to the surprise of his widowers support group. Once at the school, however, now operated by Marilyn's daughter, Mary Ann (Mary Steenburgen), and featuring a beautiful lady, Meredith (Marisa Tomei), Frank is intrigued. Failing to find Lisa, the baker, nevertheless, goes back the following week, even though Meredith's troubled stepbrother (Donnie Wahlberg) warns him to keep away from his sister. Before long, Frank and all of the widowers are learning to "live again" with the healing power of ballroom dance. But, will Steve remain alive and will Lisa ever be found? This lovely film is easy to recommend to fans of romantic drama and, indeed, all those who admire quality film-making. The story is wonderful, after a slow opening, with some memorable lines and situations. Also, the setting is fantastic, an old but beautiful ballroom, with Mary Ann parting the stage curtains at each class' beginning and following a pattern of etiquette that recalls a different era. As for the cast, Carlyle, Steenburgen, the always lovely Tomei, Goodman, Sean Astin, Paymer, and especially Wahlberg, are made-to-order great. Naturally, the costumes, photography and inventive direction are also strong assets. Want to put a spring in your step and smile on your face? Dance out the door and secure a view soon.
  • It seems that dance-themed movies are almost by definition, if you will pardon the pun, a little offbeat. I suppose one could make pseudo-intellectual references to dance as metaphor, but, in the end, I think dance is dance and that's just fine. And so is this movie – just fine, wonderfully, delightfully fine.

    Writer/director Randall Miller deftly employs the frame story literary device to weave two disparate narratives into a third, unifying story line. While this literary conceit was necessary to incorporate a short film of the same name that Miller made fifteen years previous to this film, it is nonetheless cleverly handled and flawlessly executed. One actor even appears in both time-lines. As a child he plays one of the central characters in his boyhood story, and as an adult, he plays the colleague of another central character. This is done imperceptibly, and is almost in inside joke to those who are aware of the earlier film.

    Without giving too much away, the story lines all revolve around the eponymous Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School; how one character, recalling his youth there, struggles to return for a rendezvous he promised as a boy to make on this day, and how his struggle leads a grieving widower to make his own journey there, where he will find, well, you'll have to see for yourself what he finds, but, believe me, it's worth it.

    The cast is surprisingly heavy with A-list (and some solid B-list) talent. Frank Keane (Robert Carlyle: The Full Monty) is a widower going through the motions of his life as a baker, unable to get past the suicide of his wife. Carlyle excels at bringing unexpected layers to his roles, and this is no exception. His character encounters challenges and inspirations that become life changing, and Carlyle renders them perfectly.

    John Goodman is one of those actors who, despite being gifted, are almost, if you will pardon another pun, too large a personality in real life to be effective in most roles. Here, the circumstances surrounding his character make it work beautifully. Similarly, Danny DeVito, who has but a cameo appearance, is delicately downplayed with surprising effectiveness. One almost wonders how Miller managed to assemble this impressive cast, as if he won some Hollywood casting lottery, but the fact that he is Rhea Perlman's cousin might explain at least DeVito's willingness to do the film. Rhea's father even appears.

    I have always loved Mary Steenburgen, and her more or less title role as Miss Hotchkiss is no disappointment. Her characteristically cracking voice is just what the character needs to seem somewhat surreal. Oscar® winner Marisa Tomei delicately inhabits the female lead of the story, and brings closure and redemption to the bereaved widower. Camryn Manheim has a brief but powerful appearance, and even Sonia Braga was somehow convinced to join a cast inexplicably overloaded with talent. Add to that Sean Astin, Adam Arkin, Ernie Hudson, and even a deliciously counter-cast Donnie Wahlberg, and you begin to see what I mean about the surfeit of talent.

    All of that talent wasn't for naught. The ensemble melds beautifully, delicately supported by Mark Adler's gorgeous soundtrack and all orchestrated with preternatural grace and subtlety by auteur director/writer/producer/editor Randall Miller. Films like this go largely unnoticed, and most of its fan base comes from people who caught it as part of some tedious and pretentious film festival or other. I was fortunate to have placed the film in my Netflix queue so I could watch it sans pretense, where I could experience it personally, as it was meant to be seen.

    Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School is simply a delight not to be missed.
  • I never saw this in the theatre but caught it recently on STARZ. Like Steve, I'm a Southern California boy(Ventura-born)and lived in Pasadena for eight years. But this film touched me as a There-But-For-The-Grace-Of-God story.

    I grew up in Northern California and saw my wife for the first time on her mother's 51st birthday, Feb. 17,1968, crossing the intersection of Telegraph and Durant Aves in Berkeley. I was not quite 14 and she was dressed in a black silk top hat, long black velvet cape and dress. That girl became the physical template for every girl I'd ever be attracted to.

    Over the next 21 years, I went through junior high and high school, joined the Navy and hunted the Great Steel Whales, got married and had two children with a woman I knew I didn't love. I was working in San Francisco for A.T.&T. in the 1980's and started riding the Vallejo ferry into San Francisco in the summer of 1989, the same company my Dad had worked for as a deck hand at the time I saw her. Although I didn't know it at the time, the first person I met on the boat that day was her, 21 years later, sitting in my favorite seat outside.

    We started talking and found out we were both budding writers. Over the next few months, we read each other's work and started writing a spy novel together. We were also both trapped in bad marriages. Then three things happened to me in the last months on 1989. The first was cutting off a killer called the 580 shooter on the Oakland Freeway one midnight going to work. Then 6 weeks later the Loma Prieta Quake hit and while she was on the pier, I headed back into work and kept long-distance phone service working through the emergency. By this time she had confessed her feelings to me and I was hit out of left field. While I processed that, I had to realize that the only time I looked forward to in the day was the time I spent with her. The final straw occurred on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

    They had repaired the cable cars by then and we got free cable cars with the ferry pass. We would walk to the California Street cable car from the ferry, hop aboard and ride up to Kearney St. where I would get off. She would continue up to Stockton St. where she would get off. That Wednesday, my daughter was sick so I stayed home to care for her. So, the cable car didn't stop at Kearney and made the light. Forty seconds later, a 50-ton construction crane collapsed into the intersection of California and Kearney, killing six people. When we talked next, we left together. It wasn't until a month later that she told me she used to hang out in Berkeley in the same place, time and wearing the same clothes I had seen her in that day. And if we hadn't had the courage to stand up for love, I would have never known it.

    That was 19 years ago and we have never been apart since. This film reminds me of what might have happened had I not had the courage that day. The fact that I've driven many of the streets on which the story is set and recognize most of the locations is a special bonus for me.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    *Warning - no plot spoilers ahead, but movie spoilers nonetheless...* My significant other rented this for me thinking it would be a terrific romance with an all-star cast. Wow - very, very wrong. This movie is an overdone, overwrought, and overly sentimental excuse to theatrically release a student film 15 years after it was shot! The copyright date on the box said 2005, yet during the very first flashback sequence I was looking at the clothes and hairdos that were supposed to be the early 1960s, and noticed that the girls especially were wearing late 80s/early 90s dresses and hairdos. It looked as if it had been shot a good 15 or 20 years before the rest of the film! I tried to convenience myself that it was a flashback, and therefore supposed to look old, but it looked WWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY more 80s than 60s or even 21st century trying to be 60s... then an adult coworker of the lead character turns up, and he looks just like the boy featured in the flashback sequences (yet it's a different, much older character whose youth is featured in the flashbacks). I was completely confused until I saw in the special features the short film included - it was all the flashback sequences, shot in 1990 as a complete student film of the same title as this movie! It also features commentary that includes the little boy all grown up (and indeed acting the co-worker in the 2005 scenes). Thus, this movie is just a shell of story woven around an old, re-cut student film put together as an obvious excuse to get it up to theatrical running time. The shell story, shot in 2005, is mostly about a man who has lost his wife and finds healing and redemption at the dance class that he promises a dying man he will attend in his stead (something about a promise made by the dying man in the early 60's to his girl that they would meet on the "fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of the new millennium - an excuse to shoot the segments around the old film in 2005?) These new scenes and plot might have been OK except the awful, overly sentimental score that repeats ad nauseum over almost every single new scene and the clichéd action that permeates the new movie. Don't bother. There's a reason why you've never heard of this movie even though it has a well-known cast - it's terrible.
  • I just had to write a comment. I can't believe how many people found this movie poignant and charming and touching. I hoped I would. I did not.

    I was surprised to find this movie at my local cineplex. The reviews in the paper weren't very good, but the ad was intriguing. The title is awkwardly long, I hoped the movie was not. There was only room enough on the box office sign to put the words "Marilyn Hotchkiss", and there were at least 2 couples in line were confused about what "ballroom" movie it was they were there to see. I suspect there will be some audiences who really wanted to see the Antonio Banderas movie (Take The Lead) instead. I haven't seen that one yet, but it looks like a better bet.

    The movie is obviously low budget, and the fact that they nabbed so many name actors to appear in it is both appealing and distracting. It's almost like the result of some contest for "who can get the most name actors in their low-budget movie?". Perhaps they were following the trend set by last year's winner of that contest, "Crash". Most of these name actors in "Marilyn Hotchkiss..." have very little to do, and some of them are surprisingly awful. There are exceptions. Robert Carlyle, in the lead, is quite good, though at times it seems he can't quite decide whether or not to use his native Scottish accent. His character is a baker whose family has owned a bakery in Pasadena, California "since 1903", so it would be logical that at least he and his father before him were born and grew up in the United States. Still, Carlyle is otherwise very genuine and is the backbone of this movie. Donnie Wahlberg is also a welcome stand-out in his role as one of the patrons of the Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. Marisa Tomei gives a nice performance, as do several of the other "name actors" who have minor roles, including David Paymer, Adam Arkin, and Ernie Hudson (as members of Carlyle's widower's support group) and Sonia Braga (who is one of the ladies at the dance class). Mary Steenburgen, as the leader of the dance class, gives an interesting performance. I'm not usually a fan of her work. I don't always believe what she says -- she always seems to be "acting". But in this case her theatrical style is very appropriate and suits her and the role. Sean Astin, of whom I am a fan, doesn't fare as well. Had this been the first film I'd ever seen him in, I'd have thought, "That is just not a very good actor".

    Others on the minus side are Camryn Manheim, who stops in to give a one-scene one-note performance -- and it's not a note you'd want to hear over and over again. At least her scene is short. Which leads me to another one-note performance that seems endless -- The winner of the Lousiest Acting in an Independent Feature Award goes to John Goodman. I have even greater respect for Robert Carlyle's talent in coming up with such an honest performance while having to act with Goodman, who is so unbelievable and phony. Danny DeVito appears briefly in one scene, as if to fulfill the star quota. Among the several non-name actors that are spattered throughout the film, there is one that was conspicuous, the only actor I didn't recognize in Carlyle's widower's support group, a sad-sack faced actor named David St. James, whose every appearance involves him crying. Though I imagine it's intended to be comedic, it is so over-the-top, reminiscent of Stan Laurel or the Cowardly Lion, he seems to have been stuck in the wrong movie.

    The writing is all over the place, some good, some bad, some preposterous. I won't include a spoiler, but there's a scene in the bakery that would not only violate health code standards, but have you seriously consider that low-carb diet.

    I can't say the directing is all bad. Though he wasn't able to get good performances out of all of the actors, director Randall Miller has managed to come up with some nice imagery. His skill at photographing dance isn't always great, but I did like one particularly memorable shot panning across the feet of the ladies waiting in line to dance. He's chosen two different cinematography styles to denote flashback. The scenes from the original short (made 15 years ago), of the young kids in dancing class, are given an overly grainy look. (Or maybe that was what the entire short originally looked like). The John Goodman scenes, flashing back to the car accident, are all in that over-exposed, washed-out look that has become popular in many films. The first time I saw that look in a movie, I thought it looked like bad photography, like the filmmakers didn't have the money to do it properly so the footage would look "good". I thought it looked cheap. But now that I've seen it in major studio films, like "Munich", I recognize that it isn't cheap, it's a choice. It's simply a choice that doesn't appeal to me. It makes those scenes look even more strident than John Goodman's acting. In "Marilyn Hotchkiss...", the many different styles make it look like an exercise in Photoshop Filters.

    I really wanted to like this movie. Instead, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief through much of it.
  • precious_stane23 August 2005
    Didn't know what to expect but I laughed - I cried - I really enjoyed it!

    I saw it at its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival and really hope that it gets a UK distributor. And by the way Randall - the opening tune of your film was also in "Meet Joe Black" (closing credits of that film - really!) Either way - the music was good and there was an amazing cast for a small budget film including a cameo from Danny De Vito. The audience really enjoyed it and I don't think that I was the only one who was surprised to hear that one critic gave it a really low rating. I don't think that they can have been at the same film!

    I loved the way that the story was woven together with lots of flashbacks without it being confusing or messing up the flow of the film.

    A great performance by Robert Carlyle et al and a fantastic Friday night film.
  • 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.
  • I absolutely loved this film! I saw it this weekend, and I was blown away by the heartwarming story and incredible performances. Robert Carlyle was amazing, and Mary Steenburgen was brilliant. Not to mention the fabulous performances by John Goodman, Danny DeVito, and the whole amazing cast.

    I was so moved by Robert Carlyle's journey of being able to find love again after loss and learning to live again. The story spoke directly to my heart, and I laughed and cried.

    Everyone should also take a look at the review in the Washington Post. As they said:

    "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."

    Check out the full review to this amazing, amazing film.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/30/ AR2006033001870.html

    Go out and see this wonderful movie.
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