Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 16 News List

'Marilyn' could use a few dance lessons

The only horizontal desire emanating from most of the actors in this film is the one that puts you six feet under

By Jeannette Catsoulis  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

A soggy kind of love is in the air when Robert Carlyle and Marisa Tomei tango together.


Ever since George Bernard Shaw described dancing as "a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire," his words have been the subliminal tag line of every movie in which couples hoof their way to romantic bliss. Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School struggles bravely to maintain that tradition, but it's tough to convey the erotic charge of a merengue when all your characters are drowning in misery.

Most miserable of all is Frank (Robert Carlyle), a baker locked in mourning for a wife whose ashes greet him every morning from the dresser. A chance encounter with a dying crash victim named Steve (an operatic John Goodman) sends Frank to the titular dance school to keep an appointment with Steve's childhood sweetheart. Instead he meets Meredith (Marisa Tomei), a tranquil beauty bravely hopping on her one good leg. Though Meredith's burdens also include an abusive dance partner and stepbrother (a hip-swiveling Donnie Wahlberg), Frank is undeterred. A new life awaits.

Elaborating on his own 1990 short film, the director, Randall Miller, toggles back and forth between Steve's past and Frank's present. Despite a gloriously baroque performance from Donnie Wahlberg — attempting moves certified only for Antonio Banderas — Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School remains irredeemably soggy. The only horizontal desire emanating from most of these characters is the one that puts you six feet under.

Film Notes:

Directed by: Randall Miller

Starring: Robert Carlyle (Frank Keane), Marisa Tomei (Meredith Morrison), Mary Steenburgen (Marienne Hotchkiss), Donnie Wahlberg (Randall Ipswitch), John Goodman (Steve Mills), Sean Astin (Kip Kipling)

Running time: 103 minutes

Taiwan release: Today

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