Save the Last Dance
An intelligent film with complicated characters and an unpredictable ending, this movie's characters are smart about themselves. Sara (Stiles), a morose high school girl on a train, thinks back. She's a promising dancer who auditioned at Juilliard, but her mother died, driving to see her. Now she has no money for school, must leave her comfortable suburb, and will live with her father, Roy (Kinney), a musician in a rough Chicago neighborhood. He isn't the parenting type.((Most students at Sara's new school are black, but there are no \ cliches about racial tension. The school's students ignore the new white girl; they have more important things to think about. Chenille (Washington) knows how easily your bags can be stolen if you leave them unattended, and befriends Sara. Another smart young student, Derek (Thomas), dances with Sara at a club; he turns out to be Chenille's brother, and Sara likes him. About their budding romance, she says, "We spend more time defending our relationship than having one."
Derek and his best friend, Malakai (Starr) are in trouble; Malakai is a petty thief and a gang member who once pulled Derek out of a bad situation. Derek has won a scholarship to Georgetown, but loyalty tugs when Malakai wants him to be his backup at a potentially fatal encounter. The episode is surprising.
Derek and Sara dance in a deserted building where he shows her urban dance moves and learns she loves ballet. Their romance shows that love sees very well. The movie doesn't simply applaud interracial relationships; Chenille bitterly criticizes Sara: "You come and take one of the few decent men left after drugs, jail, and drive-bys." It overstates the case, but we understand how she feels. As Sara jockeys for personal space with her bohemian bachelor father, and genuinely talks to Derek, Stiles is excellent.((Thomas is especially good as he and Malakai try both loyalty and common sense, as Malakai tries to talk Derek into trouble. Derek's instincts and intelligence clash. Director Carter ("Swing Kids," "Metro"), lets this be the story of specific characters, so the movie surprises us. Derek and Sara think; romance isn't the end of their story. They're going to college, and have plans. Maybe they'll be in each other's plans. You need a lot of luck if you plan to spend your life with the first person you fall in love with in high school.
Duane Adler and Cheryl Edwards
Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Terry Kinney, Kerry Washington, Fredro Starr
Teenage dancers; mixed-race high school;
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