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  • Dance with the One | Review

    SXSW FILM 2010

    By | March 23, 2010

    Director: Mike Dolan

    Writers: Smith Henderson, Jon Marc Smith

    Starring: Gabriel Luna, Xochitl Romero, Gary McCleery, Mike Davis, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, J.T. Coldfire, Barry Tubb, Paul Saucido, Danielle Rene, Michael John Hurley

    Nate (Gabriel Luna) lives at home in order to take care of his little brother Sitter (Mike Davis) and their alcoholic good-for-nothing hippie dad, Owen (Gary McCleery). In order to pay his family’s bills, Nate works for his girlfriend Nikki’s (Xochitl Romero) father (Paul Saucido) as a small time pot dealer.

    When his boss receives a shipment of $1 million in hash that he needs to store, Nate jumps at the opportunity to go big time and earn some extra cash. He stores the hash in an old shed on his family’s property (where his deceased mother’s old things are also stored). Nate doesn’t tell anyone where the drugs are stored, but the hash quickly goes missing. All hell breaks loose as Nate must protect his family from the mean old drug-runner who wants his product back. For many years, Nate has wanted nothing more than to run away with his childhood sweetheart Nikki and get the hell out of Texas – now if he survives he might be left with no other option.

    One thing that Dance with the One deserves some credit for is bringing Hispanic characters to the forefront of the story; in fact, most of the primary characters (and more importantly the actors who play those characters) are Hispanic. This is something we rarely see on the silver screen – especially in dramas. Unfortunately, in doing this, Dance with the One relies on an all too common stereotype – that most Hispanics are drug dealers. I’m sick of seeing Hispanic characters portraying drug dealers (and gang members) – c’mon I want to see more positive and uplifting roles.

    There are some amazing performances in Dance with the One – most notably Gabriel Luna and Xochitl Romero. They both bring some much needed naturalness to this film and their onscreen chemistry is pretty amazing. I wish they had better written dialogue to work with, but they did the best with what they were given.

    But then, there is McCleery…who approaches his role with a ridiculous amount of comedy and cheese (both as the drunk, then as the hero). His character is extremely inconsistent – he begins the film as a worthless mess and a horrible father; but once things get ugly for his son, McCleery’s character is suddenly able to think perfectly clearly, act responsibly and take charge. Then, to top it all off – despite his drastic and all too apparent personality change – Nate still complains about how horrible of a father he is. Maybe Nate doesn’t believe that his father could change so drastically and quickly either?

    First-time director Mike Dolan’s Dance with the One is the fifth UT Film Institute and Burnt Orange Productions film to date (the others include: The Quiet, The Cassidy Kids, Homo Erectus, and Elvis and Anabelle).

    Rating: 4/10

    Topics: Film Reviews, News | 1 Comment »

    • Roberto Carlos Ainslie

      As a Latino, I completely disagree with the assertion that this film falls headlong into demeaning stereotypes. First, it’s hard for me to understand how you’re both applauding the fact that the main actors are Latino while simultaneously arguing that these roles shouldn’t be played by Latinos. Either you believe they should have chosen white actors, in this case, simply to counteract a prevalent stereotype, or you’re fine with the choice of actors, who you accurately point out do an excellent job.
      As for McCleery’s character: he never becomes a complete hero. In fact, he shoots someone! This doesn’t fit your depiction of him as “think[ing] perfectly cleary.” It seems extremely human to me that, despite his attempts to rectify the situation, Nate would ultimately choose to reject Owen given the kind of life he’s created for him and his brother. In a sense, then, Nate’s choice suggests a conscious departure from the stereotypical view of Latinos you assert he falls into. Would the narrative have worked better if the ending was a “happy” one? I have the sense that you’d be arguing that the film tied up loose ends in an unrealistic way just to appeal to viewers’ sentimentality if it had. The first time we meet McCleery’s character, in fact, he’s doing a magic trick for a group of kids, a far cry from a purely evil figure. The movie goes to lengths to establish him as complicated, or at least the film I watched.
      All in all, I feel like you missed several significant emotional and thematic undercurrents in the film in your misplaced anger over the depiction of Latinos and your misguided perception of the characters’ development.