Donnie Wahlberg, Mary Steenburgen, ...

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School

There’s a place, in the movies as well as in life, for the truly untalented, and Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School is an homage to one of those places. As Mary Steenburgen, speaking in the shrill quaver of a neurotic Victorian governess, issues grand pronouncements like ”Tonight we are going to attempt…the merengue,” the men and women in her class line up anxiously, like teenagers who’ve never been kissed. Their dancing doesn’t soar on wings of angels; it’s more like cha-cha night in the Catskills. These people aren’t good and never will be. They’re the lonely and the lost, folks who lack the courage to give in to their inner romantic. (The one genuine dancer, played by Donnie Wahlberg, is a jerk.) And that’s what’s touching about them — or, at least, what would be if the movie had the courage to be sincere.

Robert Carlyle, who made such an impression 10 years ago as the psycho hellion of Trainspotting, here plays a mopey widower, and Carlyle, his face as sweet and round as a Charlie Brown character’s, has a silent melancholy that the movie doesn’t quite know what to do with. Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School flits, aimlessly, between Carlyle and Marisa Tomei flirting in class and ponderous flashbacks in which John Goodman, as a car-crash victim, remembers his days as a boy in 1962 when he got dragged to the Marilyn Hotchkiss school of yada yada yada. How do the two halves connect? Through Steenburgen, who plays Hotchkiss’ daughter, carrying on her tradition of flighty ballroom ardor. But really, about all that unifies the movie is its inclination to turn little people’s dreams into limply ”affectionate” camp.

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School
  • Movie
  • 103 minutes