Last Tuesday evening had me sitting in the Wilshire Screening Room for the second and final preview of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, the new screenplay by two-time Writer’s Guild Award winner and Emmy nominee, Richard Alfieri based on his Broadway hit show by the same name, to be released this Friday, December 12th, in Los Angeles at Sundance Sunset Cinema, Laemmle Town Center 5, and Edwards Westpark 8 and in NY at AMC Empire 25.
The movie stars two-time Academy Award nominee and two-time Golden Globe winner Gena Rowlands as the crusty 75-year-old South Florida matron Lily Harrison who unexpectedly develops a life-changing friendship with her much younger, gay dance instructor.
Cheyenne Jackson co-stars as Michael Minetti, the frustrated, 30-year-old teacher and former Broadway chorus star who is assigned to Lily after she calls to request a private lesson. Julian Sands plays Cunard, owner of the dance studio. And what would a dance film be without Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy award winner Rita Moreno (West Side Story) who makes a lively appearance as Lily’s cranky downstairs neighbor.
Six Dance Lessons overall is rather a delightful little film and was certainly well-received by the crowd in attendance. The movie lightly hits all the intended points about stereotypes, prejudice, intolerance, ageism, gay issues, religion, and most of all the invisibility of older women.
“I’ve noticed so many times older women say, finally something for us,” said director Arthur Allan Seidelman. Sincerely, this is a film dedicated especially to them. A love story between a very much older matron and a very young man who genuinely need each other for so many reasons. And sex actually does sort of come into play, just not for the two of them. But the story does bring up the issue of older women, their power, loss of identity without a man, loneliness and needs beyond card games, bingo and coffee clutching.
It is a story however “by the numbers” so exact in intention that it feels at times a bit like a Sunday School lecture in relationships. The dialog fits and starts at the beginning and feels more like a stage play rather than a film. In fact, Broadway is exactly where this story was originally debuted. Characters have been added in to pad the drama and the environment between the two leads, and more layers could have filled the gaps. But in the end, it does settle into what the director wanted to give us…a beautiful picture and a clear message. That’s exactly what we got.
As an homage to the ladies of this film, their respective talents, beauty and full-spanning careers, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is worth the viewing simply for the sentiment and wisdom. Gena Rowlands and Rita Moreno are as wonderfully spot-on and snappy as ever. Actress Jacki Weaver as the kittenish, older woman looking for a great time, throws in a tremendous amount of honesty in the few moments she is given on screen. And all of them supported by a strong and thankfully not overbearing Cheyenne Jackson. Overall, it’s a sweet, comedic, straight-shooting story of life lessons for everyone. You’ll want to get your pen and paper out for notes. Because eventually, this day is coming for all of us.
The Film Collective and Dada Films presents
a Docler Entertainment Production in Association with Entpro
An Arthur Allan Seidelman Film
Screenplay by Richard Alfieri, based on his play
Directed by Arthur Allen Seidelman
Gena Rowlands as Lily Harrison
Cheyenne Jackson as Michael Minetti
Jacki Weaver as Irene Mossbecker
Rita Moreno as Ida Barksdale
Julian Sands as Winslow Cunard
Sundance Sunset Cinema – 8000 Sunset Blvd West Hollywood, CA
Laemmle Town Center 5 – 17200 Ventura Blvd #121, Encino, CA
Edwards Westpark 8 – 3735 Alton Pkwy, Irvine, CA
AMC Empire 25 – 234 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036