Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
It doesn’t matter that it’s a cliché. It doesn’t matter that it’s predictable. It doesn’t matter that the story is a well-worn hat. The only thing that matters is it works, and it works so charmingly well.
Despite funding and distribution obstacles, not to mention the death of his producer before production even started, first time film director Baz Luhrmann brings heart and humor to the screen in perfect proportion.
It’s hard to pinpoint why something works so well … Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally is another example .. but it’s a confluence of all the film arts, and also the right actors bringing the characters to the screen. Leads Paul Mercurio and Tera Morice just fit like hand in glove. Him headstrong and focused on his dream on his terms; her gentle, fragile on the surface, but determined and quietly powerful. The evolution of their relationship is completely natural, and when the moment comes, we’re cheering for it. Part of the authenticity, and part of why their funders were so nervous, is that Mercurio was a dancer, but Morice was not. Although their final dance is fantastic, the authenticity of those early missteps are what make your heart melt, and make you want to believe in her dream as well as his.
Shining behind the dance and the romance is fun, and that completes the package. Secondary characters are drawn broadly, and in bright colours, but never too far over the top to cross into farcical territory.
And then there’s the dance!
Strictly Ballroom is the complete package, and complete fun. It’s no surprise it received a 15 minute standing ovation at Cannes, and won TIFF’s People’s choice awards. You’d have to try very hard not to be swept away in its stream of magic.