Shall We Dance? (2004)

“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

Quite by accident, I caught the 2004 remake of Masayuki Suo’s Shall We Dance, with Richard Gere standing in for Koji Yakusho, and Winnipeg standing in for Chicago standing in for Tokyo. It’s often a shot-for-shot remake of the original, complete with its celebration of platonic friendships and quirky obsessions, but Audrey Wells made several alterations to Suo’s script that I list here because that’s the sort of nonsense this blog covers.

1: It features a man torn between Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez, which is an unanswerable conundrum.

2: One of the characters is eventually revealed as gay.

3: Stanley Tucci, as the secret office dancer, gets a moment in which he twirls one of his tormenters, in a sort of kung fu dance vindication.

4: A scene is inserted in which Richard Gere conspicuously chooses his wife and his marriage over his hobby, only for her to insist that he goes off and indulges his hobby. It’s a little bit of a replay of the ending of An Officer & a Gentleman, and I suspect deliberately so.

5: Miss MItzi, the dance teacher, has her own redemption arc in which she is revealed as a struggling alcoholic who is weaned off the booze by her students’ successes.

Otherwise, it retains much of the humour and the narrative beats of the original, as well as two pointless voice-overs that could have been oh-so-easily shot as real scenes to show-not-tell. Notably, however, Gere and Sarandon have two children in this remake, not the only child of the Japanese original.

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