Save the Last Dance
A rather narrow-minded look at interracial love and hip-hop in high school
Reviewed by Mike Emery, Fri., Aug. 24, 2001
D: Thomas Carter (2001); with Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Terry Kinney, Kerry Washington.
This effort from MTV was a surprise hit last year. While trailers billed it as a white-girl-discovering-hip-hop story, the plot's a little more involved than that. Sara (Stiles) is a former Julliard ballet prospect. When her mother dies en route to see her at a vital audition, Sara abandons dancing and moves in with her estranged father in Chicago. As one of her new school's only white kids, life's a little tough for her. Luckily, she makes friends fast, including the charming and handsome Derek (Thomas). As a romance ensues, issues of interracial love complicate matters as well as Derek's relationship with childhood buddies-turned-gangbangers. All the while, Sara is educated in the rudiments of hip-hop dancing in hopes that she'll once again pursue her ballerina dreams. The film works on a very simplistic level. Director Carter balances a bundle of subplots, dance scenes, and a hip soundtrack. The dancing is well shot although it's apparent that doubles were often substituted for the leads. The biggest problem is that the film's interpretation of interracial love is very one-sided. Stiles' character is only under fire from African-American teens, which makes it seem as if only blacks take objection to the relationship. By not showing both sides of such prejudices, the film comes across as being somewhat fake. Even more condescending is that Sara is portrayed as the understanding white girl with a heart of gold. Such hypocrisies are prevalent throughout, but the melange of secondary stories keeps the movie from tripping over its own feet. Not bad, but rather narrow-minded for a contemporary-teen film.