Dirty Dancing is a combination of timeless music, dancing (most seen in the signature end scene) and social class tensions. All of which make “Dirty Dancing” a decent movie.
Adding to the clichéd plot, Dirty Dancing also throws in some angst teen undertones, e.g. “as soon as daddy tells you not to do something, you go and do the opposite.” That aside, the film does make you feel good inside and, although a bit overacted, something you can watch again.
Set in the, suggested, Catskill Mountains during the 1960′s, The Houseman family, consisting of “Law and Order‘s” Jerry Orbach, playing the role of Dr. Jake Houseman, and Jennifer Grey as Baby, takes their annual trip to the Kellerman Resort.
Although it is never mentioned, for obvious reason, the resort is visited upper-class Jewish families; tying into the social class tension between our two main characters: the prim and proper Baby and gritty dancer, Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze). When Baby accidentally stumbles upon the grungy barracks of the resort staff, she has her first contact with Castle and his team of “Dirty Dancers.”Her popular first words to him – “I carried a watermelon” can be seen here.
Throughout the first 20 minutes of the film, a serious (yet socially obscene) relationship is formed between these two characters. Although Baby isn’t supposed to be mingling with the lower-class resort staff, she eventually goes behind her families (more importantly her father’s) back to pursuit this fling with Johnny; going as far as financially helping him and even learning to dance, due to some personal problems between Castle and his original dancing partner, Penny (played by “Flashdance’s” Cynthia Rhodes).
Much of the film consists of Castle teaching Baby how to dance. We also get some insight into the troubled life of Castle, eventually seeing a comparison of the two characters; Baby receives unconditional love from her parents (more her father), whereas Johnny has no real family or future, followed by some serious commitment issues.
The main thing to be learned from this story is the character transitions; when Baby first came to the resort she was “Daddy’s little girl” but upon leaving, she is a changed woman. Although not just physical (it is implied she is a virgin upon arrival) but she also sees how judgmental her father truly is.
We also see a change in Johnny’s character; from hating the resort guests due to their careless spending habits, to actually falling in love with one of them. After meeting baby, he realizes that she was only one of the few people to actually help him in a dire situation. The most known, as well as reenacted, end scene proves that all the characters “had the time of their lives.”
Personally, I enjoyed this movie. Although a bit cheesy to new viewers, it will always have a place in my collection. Not only is it timeless, but useful: to cheer you up, watch with a girlfriend, see a decent love story, reminisce about how things used to be back in the day…etc. The modern dance movies lack similar quality and overcompensate with perfect smiles and clichéd plots.