Save the Last Dance
2001
After her mother dies, Sarah (Julia Stiles) gives up her dreams of going to New York's famous Juilliard School. She must move to Chicago, live with her dad (who's virtually a stranger) and attend an urban school that's a far cry from the small-town atmosphere she's used to. Fortunately, Sarah befriends Chenille (Kerry Washington) and Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), who teach her not only how to hip-hop dance but also how to dream again.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

When a teen film is smart enough to sidestep (most) clich├ęs and make its characters as intelligent as its viewers, do you praise it for doing only what every movie should do? In this case, I don't much give a damn. Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas are so sympathetic and likeable and, yes, complex that they win the film away from that nagging feeling that this has all been done before. Their romance has appeal because it is not the central element of the film, nor of their lives, nor even of their conversations. It seems borne of genuine affection rather than the needs of a screenplay. The film is good at addressing many "900 pound gorillas in the room" of race and family that would other films would let pass unspoken, although the abrupt ending dodges one such issue, what it will mean for their romance if these two kids wind up going to different universities. Ultimately it doesn't matter: This is a film for the heart, not the mind, the sort of film you can't leave without a dance in your step and a crush on one of the leads.

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