Save the Last Dance
It's no secret that suburban white kids comprise hip-hop's largest audience. MTV Film's Save the Last Dance reflects this reality. It's a lightweight teen drama/romance about a Vermont ballerina in Chicago's South Side. Julia Stiles plays Sara, the promising young dancer dealing with her mother's sudden death and her relocation to Chicago to live with her jazz-cat father in a predominantly black neighborhood. Here Sara meets Chenille (Kerry Washington) and her brainy brother Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), who also happens to be a skillful hip-hop and step dancer. A natural attraction emerges between the high schoolers. With Derek's guidance, Sara sets out to unleash her inner sista—and possibly to revive dreams of Juilliard now that she's received the funk injection.
MTV is known for complex, often provocative imagery, none of which lingers onscreen long enough to make an impact. The same can be said of Save the Last Dance. The film is agile and aware, but not particularly curious. Excellent lead performances by Thomas and Stiles make it fly, however. Under Thomas Carter's direction (Swing Kids) they perform with gusto and sensitivity, leaving one to wonder what would have happened with a meatier script.