Apr 25, 2006
Despite being a predictable film in the “noble-teacher-takes-on-delinquent-students” genre, Take the Lead is a film of impressive character, advocating chivalry, excellence, and self-respect. This film starring Antonio Banderas is based on the true story of a ballroom dance instructor, Pierre Dulaine, who volunteered to teach dance lessons in a New York City public school. With a heart for the school's rejects, he teaches them what it means to care about something passionately and to believe that they can rise above the circumstances of their difficult urban lives.
This film has typical charm, bringing together a cast of characters who have various quirks, including the white student who wears his red hair in cornrows and an uncoordinated debutante who prefers the company of the inner city students to her own snobbish class. Alfred Woodard also gives a convincing portrayal of the tough but genuinely feminine principal who cares deeply about the future of her students. The dancing scenes come to life with creative cinematography and energetic choreography.
Above all, Take the Lead impressed me with its approach to the social problems its characters face. With conviction that would have made Pope John Paul II proud, Mr. Dulaine believes that a cultural education can keep teens off of the streets. However, dance is not the end in itself. Rather, it is the means to achieving authentic and respectful relations between the sexes. Since most of the students' difficulties result from broken families, it is refreshing that the film's solution is for men to be men and women to be women. Ballroom dancing provides the perfect opportunity for men to lead with gentleness and for women to follow not passively but consciously and with flare.
I would love to watch this film again, and I can certainly recommend it with enthusiasm. The dancing is highly sexualized at times, and so I doubt its appropriateness for very young audiences. Amidst a slew of contemporary films that challenge traditional gender roles, Take the Lead stands out as a remarkable proponent of chivalry and mutual respect between men and women.