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66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "No Form, No Difinition, No Beginning, No End" ~ Dancing the Demons Within
What guy in his right mind would want to watch a movie titled, 'Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School?' The name absolutely shrieks out the warning, "CHICK FLICK!" If you're like me and thought that, you'd be wrong.

This is an insightful tale of personal choices and how the choices we make effect the path we travel in life. Frank Keane (Robert...
Published on July 23, 2006 by Brian E. Erland

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but not ballroom dancing
Marilyn Hotchkiss's Ballroom Dancing & Charm School has its good moments, especially when Robert Carlyle is on the scene, but its presentation of ballroom dancing leaves much to be desired.
Published 6 months ago by booklover


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66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "No Form, No Difinition, No Beginning, No End" ~ Dancing the Demons Within, July 23, 2006
This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
What guy in his right mind would want to watch a movie titled, 'Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School?' The name absolutely shrieks out the warning, "CHICK FLICK!" If you're like me and thought that, you'd be wrong.

This is an insightful tale of personal choices and how the choices we make effect the path we travel in life. Frank Keane (Robert Carlyle), recently widowed, is driving his bakery truck along a deserted stretch of highway when he comes upon the scene of a horrible accident. He calls 911 and is told to keep the injured motorist talking until they arrive. The name of the injured driver is Steve Mills (John Goodman) who was rushing to an important appointment made thirty-five years ago with his grammar school sweetheart. They had both vowed to meet on the 5th day of the 5th month of the new millenium at Marilyn Hotchkiss' Charm School. When Steve finally realizes he'll never be able to keep his promise he asks Frank to keep the appointment for him. Frank honors Steve's last request and in doing so changes the course of his life forever.

On the outside we discover a sweet, nostalgic, disarming film, funny at times, poignant and bittersweet at others. However on a deeper level we discover the storyline serves as a metaphor of spiritual awakening. The ballroom is the world and the coming together to dance is how one chooses or refuses to embrace life. As Miss Hotchkiss says, "Dance is a very powerful drug."

The cast is terrific, especially Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, Donnie Wahlberg and John Goodman.

OK, maybe it's kind of a chick flick. But it's a great one!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Sleeper, May 29, 2006
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This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
If I came across the title or synopsis I probably wouldn't have gone to see this film. It was part of a package at the Stony Brook Film Festival last year and I have to say it was one of the best there. It's the story of a con who gets out of prison (John Goodman) who is on a mission to keep a date he made while an adolescent. He is sure that his childhood sweetheart will be there. For reasons that I won't disclose, he will not be able to keep his date so enlists a chance bystander (Robert Carlisle) to go in his place. Carlisle wants nothing to do with it but doesn't have the heart to say no, nor say yes and then just not do it.

Carlisle has a boatload of his own problems to deal with and he is struggling with them mightily. It is an interesting mix of characters and the story unfolds nicely with a surprise finish. Give it a try.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Heart Back Into Theaters, July 1, 2006
This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
i will admitt the tittle is strange but that does no justice to this fantastic story----movies usually have action violence,and no substance but this movie feels so like its from the heart of love in every aspect --there is more emotion and geniune feeling in this movie then of the last ten years of filmaking---i cried and fell in love with every charactor --i dont want to reveal the story but lets just say a man has been jailed half his life dreaming of meeting his child hood sweet heart at a dance school--and he is released just in time to make his appointment--then the great story begins---please watch it and let it move you as it did me----i need a passionate man like that----worth every penny
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Marvelous, November 27, 2006
This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
"Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School," a 2005 Sundance Festival entry now available on DVD, is one of those independent films that make you wonder why you might ever waste even another five minutes on the drek the major studios put out these days.

Several stories are perfectly wrapped into this quiet, unassuming film, and, while each is inviting and engaging in its own right, together they form an exquisite package that charms and captivates, yet always maintains an underlying innocence and wit.

"Steve," played masterfully by John Goodman, is a man on a mission, hell-bent to make it to an appointment he made with his childhood sweetheart 40 years ago. With the innocence of first love, they had promised to meet on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of the new millennium, and, moreover, to meet at the same dance school where they had once learned to waltz across the gulf that inescapably separates the genders. Sadly, when he is injured enroute in a traffic accident, it looks as though Steve might not make that appointment after all. But a passing Good Samaritan, played with understated perfection by Robert Carlyle, promises to fulfill Steve's mission, and so opens the rest of the film.

In keeping his promise, Mr. Carlyle's "Frank," a man with more than his own share of regrets, stumbles into a world of which he never dreamt, and possibilities he never suspected. And through his influence, in turn, a dozen other lives are similarly changed for the better.

The all-star cast, which in addition to Goodman and Carlyle includes Marisa Tomei, Donnie Wahlberg, Camryn Manheim, Ernie Hudson, Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, David Paymer, Adam Arkin, and Danny DeVito, is perfect. Little more need be said.

There are those who will dismiss this rare gem as either a chick flick or "just another dance movie." It is neither. Rather, it is a quiet surprise that inspires without contrivance, entertains effortlessly, and tells a number of stories worth remembering. It is not to be missed.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They didn't actually see the car crash, October 28, 2007
By 
Tassie Ted (Tasmania, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
This DVD's been released for a couple of years. It's already been competently précised by other reviewers. Overwhelmingly, they seem to admire it - as do I. Rather than cover already familiar ground, I'd prefer to take issue with several misplaced criticisms:

1) The "off-putting" title: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School

Anyone claiming the title is "off-putting" needs to cultivate more curiosity in picking their DVDs. That's not to mention recognizing the potential for good-natured satire which abounds in this movie.

Ballroom Dancing and Charm School conventions ARE stilted and pretentious. Young people dread and deride them but (true to the film) they still sign up.

Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School's mediocrity and artificial conventions are hilariously but nevertheless sensitively spoofed. It's wry humor never descends to slapstick.

The subtle parallels between "British Bulldog" and the sexes retreating behind the Blue and Pink lines on either side of the hall were a real hoot.

Another delight was Marienne acknowledging her late mother at the beginning of each session, not to mention Frank Keane enrolling his friends from the "Dead Wives'Club" (if I heard correctly). This group was seriously under performing in terms of bereavement healing. Again, one suspects a gentle commentary on group therapy per se. .

As children, teenagers and adults, many of us have been to Dance Academies and their ilk. I met my wife at one. This movie cleverly interweaves the comedy with the drama and the positive, socializing and therapeutic processes which can emerge. As young adults, one of the best ones in our area was run by the North Sydney Police Boys' Club.

The DVD's title actually attracted my interest. As soon as I checked it wasn't a blood fest, I was hooked.

2) Marienne Hotchkiss can't dance properly, etc:

Surely, this was the point. Experts making this criticism flaunt erudition at the expense of recognizing the reality of their local Dances.

3) Unnecessarily cluttered ending:

One couldn't disagree more. Just when viewers thought they were on top of it all and heading towards a Hollywood "walking off into the sunset" finale, a lovely little cameo emerges. It throws one of the main protagonists into an intriguing and completely different context. It was a clever and unexpected touch. The contrast with Steve's boyhood promise mischievously puts "Charm Schooling" under re-examination as the movie concludes.

4) The flashbacks were confusing:

What was the alternative? One of the movie's important strengths was an insightful ability to both parallel and contrast the many adult characters with their formative past.

Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School is a gem. It's wry, quirky and insightful. It's original and memorable. If there's any weakness it's the slightly surreal introduction of Robert Carlyle as Frank Keane, the romantic lead. For the first few minutes I thought I'd picked a dud. This was partly due to the cinematography but the story quickly got on track especially when the viewer was spared the detail another spectacular car crash. Any movie where the car crash takes place out of sight, is OK by me, especially when it's a Volvo.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Touching, Engaging, Occasionally Funny Chick Flick, July 1, 2006
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This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
This movie merges the stories of two men (Robert Carlyle and John Goodman) who meet at a critical point in both their lives. One story is told in flashbacks, and takes place in the 60s, the other is current, and goes forward. The connecting thread is Marilyn Hotchkiss' Dancing School, now run by her daughter, Mary Steenburgen. Marissa Tomei, Adam Arkin, Sean Astin and Donnie Wahlberg all do excellent jobs of fleshing out secondary characters. The stories unfold slowly, with people learning lessons about love, grief, dealing with our pasts, coming into our own and the path not taken - all tied together by the dance.

This is mostly a drama, with some comedic moments. All the acting is excellent, some of the ends are left loose, and plenty of questions aren't ever answered.

I'm glad I saw it and I may buy it when it's on sale pre-viewed, but it is definitely worth at least renting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Samiritan tries to keep an appointment for another at Thursday Nights with Marilyn Hotchkiss, July 14, 2006
By 
Amazon Customer (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (COMMUNITY FORUM 04)   
This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
In 1990, after having directed the "Melissa and Men" episode of "thirtysomething," Randall Miller wrote and directed a 30-minute film entitled "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School." Narrated by William Hurt as the adult Steve Mills, it tells the story of when he was a kid (played by Elden Henson) and was forced by his mother to take lessons in ballroom dancing (and charm) from Marilyn Hotchiss (Patricia Fraser). The Friday night event is complicated by the fact that during a game of British Bulldog, Steve's elbow connected with the eye of young Lisa Gober (Kelley Parker). Steve wants to be cool, just like his friend Kenny Dulin (Joshua Horowitz), but he also wants to apologize to Lisa because he is clearly growing up and you know what that means. The entire short film version of the original "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School" is included on this DVD, as a bonus feature to the main film, Miller's 2005 film of the same name.

I do not recommend that you watch the original before this new version, but I would not dissuade you from doing so either. It is just that there have been many times in recent years that I have seen a short film turned by the director into a longer film. But this is the first time I have seen a director incorporate most of his original film into a longer version, which does not seek to retell the story, but to use it as a look at the past that sets up the events of the present. Steve Mills has grown up and is now played by John Goodman, who also assumes the film's narrator duties. After passing a bakery truck driven by Frank Keane (Robert Carlyle) on a mountain highway, Mills has a car accident. Keane stops to help and having been told by the 911 dispatcher to keep Mills talking, begins to learn of the events of the past.

Keane learns something else. Mills is on his way to an appointment of long standing with Lisa Gober. In point of fact a reunion to take place no matter what on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of the new millennium. Because of the circumstances, Mills asks Keane to keep the appointment for him. So Frank arrives at the right place, where "Thursday Nights with Marilyn Hotchkiss" are now hosted (with our permission and by the grace of God) by her daughter Marienne (Mary Steenburgen). Now all he has to do is meet Lisa and tell her what has happened. But of course Frank gets much more than he bargained for when he steps out on the dance floor with Marienne for a try at the Lindy Hop.

The story proceeds with parallel narratives. In the present, Frank alternates attending Thursday night dance lessons with his weekly group therapy sessions with Rafael Horowitz (David Paymer) for men whose wives have died. The group includes characters played by Adam Arkin, Sean Austin, Ernie Hudson and Miguel Sandoval. At the dances you will see Sonia Braga blowing kisses and Donnie Wahlberg as Randall Ipswitch, the group's self-proclaimed Lord of the Dance (although he is not even Irish), but it is shy Meredith Morrison (Marisa Tomei), whose black eye reminds Frank of the Lisa he has yet to meet that catches his eye and perhaps captures his heart (There are other familiar faces to show up as well, but that would give away a bit too much of the end game of this film).

The idea of using his original film is this way scores point with me for Miller, and therefore I am willing to forgive the uneasy tension between the running joke that every time Mills seems to flatline in the ambulance, Frank's next question revives him (the instruction was to keep Mills talking until the paramedics arrive, at which point talking might become a bad thing), and the poignancy that he is trying to create with Frank with regards to both Meredith and the search for Lisa. This is am ambitious effort and ultimately the problem with the film is that in working in most, but not all, of his original short film, Miller sacrifices time and scenes that could have been devoted to the characters in the present. Consequently, we are forced to connect some of the emotional dots to complete the picture. I am more willing to do so than some, and hopefully you will be as well.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You'll be charmed, August 4, 2006
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This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
A chance encounter provides the means for Frank to get over the loss of his wife and move on with his life. John Goodman (Steve) is in an accident on his way to meet his first love, Lisa. Frank keeps him talking to help keep him alive and learns the story of Steve's promise to meet Lisa at Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School in 2005. Frank keeps his promise to the dying Steve and goes to meet Lisa and instead discovers a way out of his grief. I picked up this charming movie because it had Mary Steenburgen in it and discovered it was full of stars. Marisa Tomei plays Meredith, the woman that Frank meets at dance class. Camryn Manheim plays the adult Lisa. Frank's support group includes among others, Adam Arkin, David Paymer, Ernie Hudson, and Sean Astin. Eventually they too join the dance class. Elden Henson plays Steve as a young boy in the original short film from 1990 which is used as flashbacks for the story the adult Steve tells Frank, and he also plays Franks co-worker Sampson in this version. The flashbacks interpersed throughout the film with Frank's life and the dance sessions keep the viewer intrigued with both stories. It is a film about loss, and choices, and moving on with life. As someone who grew up in the time the flashbacks portray (early 60's) it brought back a lot of memories of a simpler time. Don't be discouraged by the title. You'll be charmed by the story if you give it a chance.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A credible, sad and uplifting story., October 1, 2006
This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
This movie gets better each time I watch it. It has a number of levels of activity and appreciation.

There is Steve's dream. He promised to meet Lisa on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year, and knew, beyond any doubt, that she would be there. That pushed him and drew him into a dream world of a new life, of a new start to what appears to have been an otherwise failed existence. Isn't that what so many people want, a chance at a new beginning, with a feeling, a vision, of our youth,

Then there is Frank. He saw nothing to pull him out of his ennui, and all of a sudden, just by chance, through his brief contact with Steve he comes alive again and is able to dispose of the anchor of his past and has the promise of happiness. He also brought along a woman with her own terrible demons, and her life also is looking up.

The things that happen to change ones life so often occur in an instant, and without one's prior knowledge. Whether it's love at first sight or being hit by a car on a routine walk, or any of a thousand other happenings, life, more often than not, changes in an instant.

A credible, sad and uplifting story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put into words. But just an enjoyable, yet touching, movie., August 3, 2006
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This review is from: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (DVD)
Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny DeVito and John Goodman. What a great cast... and hey look, Donnie Wahlberg is in it, too. Ok, that is unfair; he did a great job. They all did a great job.

With a cast like that, especially in an independent film I typically assume that the big names will be cameos. Someone manages to get John Goodman to make an appearance in your movie because Goodman owes a favor to one of the guys your uncle plays poker with or something ridiculous like that. So he comes in as the mayor of the town or some tiny bit part like that shakes some hands and is never seen nor heard from again. That is not the case in Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School.

I know the name alone is enough to turn you away from the film. I mean, Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School, what a stupid title. What on Earth could that be about other than some charm school for little girls? I urge you to look beyond the title and investigate further.

You will find a touching story about love and life after death (not life after one's own death, but how one must go on after someone else's death). You may smile and chuckle a little, but this is not a comedy. If it has been a while since you last saw a good drama, or even if it was last night, give Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School a try.

I am a big fan of Robert Carlyle. Everyone knows him from The Full Monty, but I have enjoyed his work in other roles as well. Some of my favorite Robert Carlyle performances are The Beach, Plunkett & Macleane, and The 51st State (A/K/A Formula 51). Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School joins them in that list. He plays a first generation immigrant who brings his family's bread business to the US. His wife has passed away and now he struggles each day without her. He is a man who wants to be left alone with his own problems when he is first to arrive after a terrible accident. You can feel how awkward it is for him to find himself in the situation to follow.

John Goodman, who I expected to have one scene in the film, really impressed me. He is in the movie start to finish and stretches artistic muscles I never knew he had. He has been solid in everything I have seen him do up to this point, but I have never seen him do anything like this. He really did a great job.

The story may be a little far-fetched for some. And one or two of you may call it "hokey," but I liked it a lot. It hasn't taken over the role of my favorite movie, and despite what the synopsis says on the back of the DVD, I probably will not add it to my collection. Please do not let that deter you from giving it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School; I think you'll be entertained if nothing else. Look beyond the title. Check it out.
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