When Frances “Baby” Houseman arrives at the Catskills Mountain with her family, she meets Johnny Castle, one of the resort’s dance instructors. When Johnny’s dance partner, Penny, falls pregnant and needs an abortion, Baby helps with the cost after finding out that a waiter who also has his eye on Baby’s sister, is the father. So Penny and Johnny don’t lose their salary, Baby agrees to take over for Penny in a routine the two have planned at a nearby resort. During the days of practice, Johnny and Baby start to fall for each other despite their age and class differences.
Like many older movies, there are some aspects of Dirty Dancing that could be deemed problematic today. I grew up with this movie and watched it often when I was younger so maybe I am seeing everything through rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze had undeniably electric chemistry, which is amazing given how much they allegedly disliked each other while filming most of the movie.
Dirty Dancing is first and foremost a romance, but it’s also a coming of age film for a young woman who has clearly been taken care of and sheltered for her entire life and finally blossoms when she’s thrown into a world so completely different from her own. Baby’s character growth in this film is one of the best parts of the script and Grey nails the role with an appealing and nuanced performance. The film also tackles serious issues like abortion and classism but those are often forgotten in the midst of all of the romantic musical montages.
I used to love watching this movie in the summer. Yes, there’s some wish-fulfillment going on. The idea of going away to a romantic locale for several weeks in the summer and falling in love with the hunky dance instructor? Um, yes, please. It was a blast watching it again for this review as it took me back to those days of my youth when I knew every song and line of this film. Watching it as an adult, it feels much shorter than it used, though it clocks in at only 100 minutes. I certainly understand some more of the humor now!
Dirty Dancing is everything that you expect it to be. Is it schmaltzy with some really cheesy dialogue? Absolutely! But it’s also really romantic with some genuinely funny moments and fantastic performances. Not to mention the iconic dance at the end of the film with the equally iconic line: “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”. It just’s so joyful and fun. Maybe the end is wrapped up a little too neatly but that’s okay with me. I’m not asking for something believable and based in reality when I’m watching a movie called Dirty Dancing. Simply put, it’s an iconic movie and worth a watch.