Sure-Footed 'Hotchkiss' Has Date With Destiny
Starring Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen, John Goodman and Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School" is a poignant, touching tale of the vagaries of fate and destiny. Directed by Randall Miller, this film vividly shows how chance encounters and random acts of kindness have the potential to irrevocably alter our lives and how the emotional loss, fear, and loneliness can be transformed into joy and love of life.
In "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School", two complementary themes are successfully blended to produce a dramatic and emotional impact: Frank Keane's (Carlyle) adjustment to the recent death of his wife, Rita, and Steve Mills' (Goodman) past and present life. Keane, the owner of a bakery that's been run by his family since 1903 in a small town in rural America, is suffering from the loss of his wife, a suicide. Clearly devoid of any joy or happiness, Keane's lonely daily routine involves waking at 4 a.m., saying "Good Morning" to the ashes of his wife and dog and heading to the bakery to begin his day. Finding that he is "floating" with no direction, he seeks professional guidance by joining a bereavement therapy group. These scenes are particularly powerful as they vividly convey the gut-wrenching agony of the participants, actors Adam Arkin, Ernie Hudson, and Sean Astin, who reveal their often conflicting emotions ranging from anger and guilt to fear and loneliness following the loss of their wives.
Into this scenario, fate introduces a surprise element in Steve Mills (Goodman) a down on his luck, petty criminal who enters Keane's life in a tragic and dramatic manner. After witnessing Mills' car accident, Keane's life is unpredictably altered when he offers to help Mills fulfill a promise he made more than 40 years ago. In the ambulance after the accident, Mills tells Keane of his relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Lisa Gobar, who was his first love. Mills' story took place in 1962 and is told in flashback sequences that accurately and sensitively capture the essence and spirit of the early'60s.
In order to fulfill his pledge to Mills, Keane must attend a class at the Marilyn Hotchkiss studio, an experience that motivates him to begin a new chapter in his life. Steenburgen gives an inspired performance as Marianne Hotchkiss (daughter of Marilyn), the current dance instructor, who opens up a new world to her students with the promise that dance will "exorcise demons, access deep seated emotions and color your world in shades of magenta". She truly creates a magical world for her students, magic that is lacking in the other recently released dance movie, "Take the Lead". Through dance, Keane becomes involved in living once again, even gaining enough confidence to begin a relationship with Meredith (Tomei), one of the dance students. Members of Keane's therapy group join the dance class after seeing how he has been transformed, providing another touching moment and underlining the theme of personal redemption through dance.
This is a heartwarming film that tells the viewer that God has a "Master Plan" for each one of us.