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The Chicago Traveler

Friday Film: Save the Last Dance

by Matt B on July 25th, 2008

Many films that appeal to the young-adult audience are full of clich's and what I call 'after-school-special' romanticisms. While Save the Last Dance is not an incredible film, it does present characters that are a little closer to reality than the stereotypes too many movies rely upon.

Save the Last Dance (2001)
Directed by: Thomas Carter
Produced by: Robert W. Cort
David Madden
Starring: Julia Stiles
Sean Patrick Thomas
Kerry Washington
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
All Movie Guide

The film opens with Sara (Julia Stiles), a teenager from the suburbs, moving to Chicago to live with her father Roy (Terry Kinney) after the unexpected death of her mother. Roy lives in a rough neighborhood in the city and is a bit rough around the edges himself, not at all prepared for the sudden responsibility of parenthood thrust upon him.

Sara attends a high school with a predominantly Black population, but despite being the new girl, she makes friends quickly with Chenille (Kerry Washington) and Chenille's brother Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas). After the three friends enjoy a night at the club, Derek agrees to help Sara with her hip-hop dance steps. Eventually, the more time they spend together, the more they begin to like each other. This high school love story is anything but basic though: Derek has a haunting past, Sara can't face her future, and some of their friends are conflicted about their present interracial relationship.

The movie was considered the breakthrough for emerging actors Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas. There are some great views of Chicago as the two characters travel by bus and train to areas around Harold Washington Library, Sears Tower, the Chicago River, and the Chicago Theatre (featuring the Joffrey Ballet). Other filming locations that aren't quite as obvious included the Chicago Academy of Arts, Union Station, and the Schubert Theater. Sara's Chicago home was a run-down flat on South Sawyer Avenue and, given its close proximity to an eL line, I assume it was under the current Pink Line.

Again, the movie isn't ground-breaking, but it does take a real look at race relations and the 'reality' of love. While the setup is stereotypical, the characters are thoughtful and the outcome uncertain.

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POSTED IN: Entertainment, Filmed in Chicago

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