A charmingly packaged dose of camp irony, Strictly Ballroom is equal parts witty satire, contemporary storybook romance, and expertly choreographed music video. Directed with exceptional assurance by first-time director Baz Luhrmann, the film was a surprise international hit, winning over audiences and critics with its giddy blend of tongue-in-cheek humor and exhilarating dance sequences. It was arguably Australia's most popular export since Crocodile Dundee, sparking a new fad for ballroom dancing and winning cult status on both sides of the Pacific. Part of the film's appeal stemmed from its inventive ways of avoiding the pitfalls of its unapologetically familiar plot; in this conventional triumph-of-the-underdog/unlikely romance, Luhrmann didn't so much avoid the story's cliches as wallop them with knowing irony. More important in explaining the film's appeal, however, was its overwhelming sense of fun, and a genuine streak of mad exuberance. A paean to bucking the rules and following your heart, Strictly Ballroom is anarchy wrapped in gold lamé.
by Rebecca Flint Marx review