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25 of 27 found the following review helpful:
Will You Want To "Save the Last Dance" Jun 08, 2001
Save The Last Dance is quite a bit smarter, and more entertaining, than the majority of what some people call teenybopper flicks. Much of this is due to the performances of Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas. I know Thomas only from a small role in Cruel Intentions (one of my guilty pleasures from 1999), but Stiles always seems to bring an added depth to her movies, from 10 Things I Hate About You to Hamlet. This movie's no different. She's the protagonist, the heart and soul of the movie, and she doesn't disappoint.
Stiles is Sarah Johnson, a suburban teen whose life is torn apart when her mother is killed in a car accident en route to her daughter's ballet recital. Sent to live with her estranged father Roy (Terry Kinney), a down-on-his-luck jazz musician, she is forced to adapt to her new environment -- inner city Chicago. There she enrolls in a school in which she is pretty much the only color. She makes friends with Chenille Reynolds (Kerry Washington), a single mother, and her brother Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), a smart kid who is at a crossroads in life. She also makes enemies with Nikki (Bianca Lawson), who wants Derek all to herself, and Malakai (Fredro Starr), Derek's best friend and convicted criminal, who's swiftly descending into a life of crime. Needless to say, a relationship develops between Sarah and Derek, and they help each other: he gets her involved in dance again, and she opens his mind to the possibilities of life outside the hood.
Save The Last Dance is more realistic than many of its counterparts. The high school looks like a real high school. The dance club is more like a dance club; ie, some people dance, some don't, and nobody breaks out into a quasi-Busby Berkeley style group dance number. And the actors make their characters seem like real people. Director Thomas Carter and screenwriters Duane Adler and Cheryl Edwards bring up a number of issues that make the movie more than just another teen flick. If you're a romantic, the ending will leave you with a huge smile on your face, and perhaps even choke you up. It's definitely worth taking a look at.
27 of 30 found the following review helpful:
TO DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM... Jul 27, 2002
This is a well acted, somewhat sanitized and idealized story of a talented teeage girl who, on the cusp of achieving her dream, loses everything, only to find it again in a way no one would have predicted. It is a story about attaining one's dreams and the process by which they may become a reality. This is a well acted, though predictable, coming of age tale that can be enjoyed by young and old alike.
Here, the talented Julia Stiles plays the role of Sara, a teenager who happens to be a talented ballet dancer. Auditioning for the famous Julliard School, while angry at her single parent mother for being late to her audition, she fumbles her audition. She finishes, only to discover that her mother, in her haste to make Sara's audition, died in a tragic car accident on her way. Blaming herself for her mother's death, Sara gives up ballet.
Her pleasant life suddenly snatched from her, Sara is forced to go live with her estranged dad, Roy, wonderfully acted by Terry Tinney. A down and out jazz musician who lives on Chicago's tough south side, Roy does the best he can to make up for lost time. Sara, seemingly undaunted by her seamy new surroundings, enters a predominantly black high school, where she is befriended by fellow student, Chanelle, a single mom with a hunky, intelligent brother, Derek, played by Sean Patrick Thomas, who is well cast in the role. Bound for Georgetown University, Derek hopes to one day become a doctor.
Through her blossoming relationship with Derek, Sara begins to dance again. It is through his encouragement and nurturing that she regains the confidence to follow her dream and audition once again for Julliard. It is also through his commitment to Sara that Derek finds the courage to tell his gangsta wanna be friend that he wants no further involvement in his friend's nefarious activities, before it is too late for him.
Sara's audition is a show stopping dance routine that is the icing on this enjoyable, coming of age film. It is a testament to hope and to the power of love.
17 of 20 found the following review helpful:
Dynamic Dance Duo Sep 29, 2002
By JANA TAYLOR
Save the Last Dance (2001), starring Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas, is more than your average teen movie. This romantic drama deals with grief, guilt, interracial relationships, violence, and inner conflicts. While most romantic dramas are extremely predictable, Director Thomas Carter II does a wonderful job with plot twists.
The movie begins with Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles) on a train headed for Chicago to live with her estranged father, Roy (Terry Kinney). Sara begins to have flash backs on the train, and soon we find out that Sara was an aspiring ballet dancer, and while auditioning for the Julliard School of Dance, her mother was killed in a tragic car accident on her way to the audition. Grief and guilt cause Sara to hang up her ballerina shoes.
Sara arrives in Chicago and is forced to live a completely different life style than she is accustomed to. She attends a predominantly African American high school on Chicago's rough South Side. In her first English class, she gets into a debate with Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), and immediately dislikes him because of his attitude. Sara feels out of place until she befriends Chenille (Kerry Washington), a single teenage mother. It turns out that Derek is Chenille's brother, which is totally unexpected by Sara and the viewing audience.
Sara quickly adjusts to living in an African American culture with the help of her new friends. Sara begins to take an interest in Derek when he asks her to dance at a popular hip hop club. As Derek begins to coach her on hip hop dancing, an interracial relationship begins, and so do the social problems.
Dancing is the key to this movie because that is how most of the relationships develop. Most of the conflicts take place during the dancing scenes as well.
Overall, I rated this film a four star rating. I was expecting another teen movie, and instead I got so much more out of it. If you are interested in a serious drama that touches on a plethora of topics this film is worth viewing.
15 of 18 found the following review helpful:
Well Saved Jan 25, 2002
By Edward Lee
I would imagine that it isn't difficult, in today's Hollywood, to write and produce a teen movie ... but, based on the current crop of teen-marketed releases, I think it's increasingly difficult to do a teen movie WELL. That said, SAVE THE LAST DANCE rises (or dances) to the occasion with crackling performances by Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas.
Julia Stiles plays Sara, a small-town girl with the dream of someday becoming a world-renowned ballerina. But the unexpected death of her mother sends her to the big city that is Chicago's south-side, a predominately black neighborhood. Here, she meets Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) and not only does the chemistry start but also he introduces her to a whole different kind of music and dancing. By contemporizing her dance routines, Sara manages to find herself growing as an individual, setting herself apart from the other ballerina-wannabes, and thus our lead becomes a princess in the end.
The film's greatest fault is the obligatory dance sequence back in the Chicago 'burbs, showing us that all is well in the world of black and white. The director should've cut the film at the end of the dance audition, where the real personal triumph has been achieved, and the film would've been a finer cut.
6 of 6 found the following review helpful:
Great movie! Realistic and romantic! Aug 26, 2001
By Maureen Carey
My best friend took me to see "Save the Last Dance" in the theaters as a late birthday gift. I wanted to see the movie so bad, I wasn't sleeping at night. And it was worth how long it was. It kept me throughout the entire movie. I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. I was kind of mesmerized by the dancing. The director mixed Sara's extraordinary talent for ballet and Sean Patrick Thomas's (sorry I don't remember his name) talent for contemporary, fast dancing that you just go with the flow with and came up with a fantastic dance of ballet and contemporary. Perfect for Juillard. Both Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas did a great job in the movie. This isn't a chick-flick dance movie, either. Dance plays a big part, but the movie also focuses on Sara in general, her transistion to Chicago, to a new school, life without her mom, etc. This has to do with Sara meeting someone who helps her move on after her mom. Someone who helps her catch up with her dancing. Someone who encourages her to try again for Juillard. Someone like Sean Patrick Thomas. Julia Stiles did great as Sara. Sean Patrick Thomas did great as her friend. They both got into the roles, so that you couldn't tell it was a movie. It mesmerizes you, and gets you drawn into the action so much you think you're there. This is a great movie that is well worth watching and buying. You don't want to miss this one!
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