Making the Grades
Kids likely won't understand the subtleties of this adult-oriented script or understand how marital drift can happen. But for harried couples shuffling through the hectic demands of careers and parenting, this film will likely strike a chord.
For John Clark (Richard Gere), life is a predictable, mundane routine. In the morning he takes an early commute to work, spends the day dealing with wills and estates in his downtown office and then rides the train back home. There, between taking care of their teens and juggling busy evening schedules, he and his loving, but similarly pre-occupied wife, Beverly (Susan Sarandon) barely have time to tango.
Then one evening, John spies a forlorn face staring out of a dance studio window that overlooks the tracks. When he notices the somber Paulina (Jennifer Lopez) standing there night after night, he finally hops off at the stop and signs up for dance lessons in hopes of meeting her.
Unfortunately, he soon discovers the ballroom instructor for the beginners class is the much more mature Miss Mitzi (Anita Gillette). As owner of the studio, she has seen more than a few guys with two left feet try to soft-shoe their way into Paulina's embrace. It's taken a toll on the proprietor who buoys up her resolve before each class by nipping into a little flask she keeps hidden in a cupboard.
John finds his classmates equally disappointing. Rather robust and timid, Vern (Omar Miller) hopes dancing will help him shed a few pounds before he and his fiance get married. Chic (Bobby Cannaval), on the other hand, is a woman-hungry bachelor who thinks good dancers are better in bed. However, without any females in the class, the men are resigned to dancing with broom handles, imaginary partners and even each other.
John keeps his eye on Paulina as she teaches the more advanced dance class in the next room, until he realizes he loves ballroom dancing and enjoys the camaraderie growing between himself and his fellow students. Still, he can't bring himself to tell his wife about his newfound interest. As a result, he has to keep things hush-hush when he is invited to enter an amateur competition with a sequin-loving dancer (Lisa Ann Walter) who hangs out at the studio.
A number of profanities (including one use of the sexual expletive), hints at homosexuality and some sexual discussion between the dancers may be the biggest concerns for most viewers. John's wandering eyes and hesitancy to be open with his wife are also troublesome.
Fortunately, as this overworked lawyer waltzes his way from one class to the next, he begins to appreciate the value of a compatible partner. Rather than two-stepping his way out of his marriage, John learns that to rekindle the passion sometimes all you need to do is ask, "Shall We Dance?"
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Shall We Dance.
What was John’s initial reason for signing up for lessons and how did that change as he became involved in the classes? How did Paulina’s accusations help him realize his real passion? Is it okay for spouses to have individual interests? Are some interests better pursued together?
Beverly believes that marriage is a commitment to “stand as a witness for another person’s life,” ensuring their existence does not go unnoticed among the millions of people on earth. Do you agree with her analysis? If married, how do you fulfill that role in your spouse’s life?