Been & Going

[Citizen Filter]: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights Ruined Everything Good Forever

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The things I do for you people. I mean, I do whatever I want whenever I want, and I make the deep sacrifices to do those things, and then I go the extra mile and write down the things I think about the stuff I wanted to do for you. Without you even asking. My god, I hope you’re all grateful.

The above pile of crap is more comprehensible and engaging than Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, and that’s including the several weeks I was busy with other things (I HAVE A LIFE, OKAY? YOU DON’T OWN ME) (by the way, go like my facebook page for my upcoming Fringe play) (oh god, I feel so dirty).

So here’s how it went down: I was watching the original Dirty Dancing, which is known as a classic teen romance movie, and also for how everyone forgets that it has a major abortion storyline. (In the abortion debate, DD’s opinion is that no one should ever go to a hack doctor, and if they do, Jerry Orbach is the physician of choice to heal a punctured and probably infected uterus. Hurray for Jerry Orbach!) For all of its bizarrely dark plotline and heavy-handed commentary on the divide between upper middle class and poor (DD’s opinion: rich people should not exploit poor people, and also poor people are better dancers because their hardship gives them passion or something), the movie remains a classic because of the unreal chemistry between Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. Ho-ly Moses. If you’re ever in that place where you think you should keep going out with that person because they’re nice and stuff and maybe the attraction will grow (you fucking hipster), watch this movie. Watch this movie and realize that you should have at least one affair in your life where someone is so hot to you that they walk in the room and you forget your name. Or develop the courage to perform an awkward mambo in the hotel ballroom of a fading tourist town in the Catskills, one or the other. Doesn’t matter which.

Helloooooo, chemistry.

Helloooooo, chemistry.

Anyway. So there I was, wasting my weekend on Dirty Dancing, when it ends with an anachronistic song and Emily Gilmore dancing with some poor, and Netflix suggests Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. ‘Self,’ I think, because I’m an idiot, ‘self, you should watch this movie, because if it’s really that bad you’ll enjoy it and probably the dancing will be good, and you’re a sucker for dancing.’ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, laughs Fate. HAHAHA. HA. HA.

DD:HN follows the several months (maybe? the timeline is totally fucked in this) of an American girl’s life in Havana, just before the revolution ruined everything for American companies and the CIA started wasting its time trying to kill Fidel Castro in increasingly ridiculous ways. Young Blond Woman (I don’t even remember her character’s name anymore, it was that generic) is focused on her studies so she can get into some Seven Sisters School (BORED SO DON’T CARE) and is pissed that her father (John Slattery, in the longest audition for Mad Men ever) got promoted and transferred to Havana where she and her mother (Sela Ward, or House’s Ex-Wife from House) and little sister (that girl who always plays treacherous little sisters) will live in the absolute lap of luxury in a big hotel. Absolutely tragic.

Naturally, working at the hotel is Diego Luna, being totally wasted in a know-nothing role. Sample line: “What does looking have to do with it?” It being dancing. Because no one ever looks at themselves or others when learning to dance. Thinly veiled exoticism of a non-white culture, party of the executives who wrote this movie into the shitter! Naturally, they try to enter a dance contest for stupid reasons and fall in love, OR SO THIS MOVIE WOULD HAVE YOU THINK. You remember all the chemistry I was raving over in the original? This is that chemistry if it were beaten to death, thrown in a ditch, cryogenically frozen for a thousand years, and then brought back to life by a drunk chipmunk. They are the in ocean, dancing together, and nothing. My god, if you are in the ocean with Diego Luna and you have no desire to come together in the throes of passion, you are literally dead. And that’s keeping in mind that he can’t dance worth shit and apparently had a dance double. Mercy.

No chemistry. It's as innocuous as a cruiseline ad.

No chemistry. It’s as innocuous as a cruise line ad.

It’s also the kind of movie where you get the feeling that either they switched directors halfway through, or the director switch from heroin to cocaine, because the first two-thirds are nothing but racist January Jones (OH YES, she’s in it, playing Baby Betty Draper) and White Savior Young Blond Woman and Proto-Rapist Later To Be On Nashville Entitled Shit, and then we get six montages, a dance contest, and a revolution in the space of five minutes. And John Slattery and Sela Ward moving from disapproval of the relationship to approval overnight. On Christmas. BECAUSE WHY NOT. Possibly it’s the miracle of Baby Jeebus and/or finding a Christmas tree in Cuba. And then YBW and Diego Luna have sex and she leaves, but there’s also a dance party with her parents in their favorite club, because of course her parents were champion ballroom dancers. (If you could see me now, you’d see me gesticulating wildly and in total silence because this movie fucking floors me.)

I know, John. I know. This movie makes zero fucking sense.

I know, John. I know. This movie makes zero fucking sense.

The most unfortunate thing about the movie is that whenever we encounter characters speaking in Spanish–Diego Luna and his revolutionary brother, Diego Luna and his exceptionally accommodating mother, the revolutionary brother and the other revolutionaries, the community street dance that introduces YBW to Cuban dancing (so exotic! barf)–we see the last gasp of a really good movie. And then the frame turns to focus on white people again and I so don’t care.

Also, it speaks fucking volumes about this movie that as pretty as it is, as great as the supporting cast is, as well as Diego Luna does with the nothing he is given, the most interesting, most engaging person we encounter is Patrick Swayze in his cameo as the hotel dance instructor. When Patrick is onscreen, we believe that the world his character lives in is real. We believe that he teaches dancing with a true passion, and we even believe (god help us) that YBW has the potential to dance beautifully and well. Looking back, it’s clear he was quite ill, and even so, he’s the brightest light in the whole damn picture.

Patrick Swayze, being intense and acting like a champ.

Patrick Swayze, being intense and acting like a champ. I mean, look at him, seriously. Two minutes on screen and he makes us believe.

And that’s Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Oh, and now-faded pop star Mya shows up to sing an anachronistic song about…something, I don’t remember what. I was too busy googling Mya to figure out what the hell happened to her after making that ridiculous Moulin Rogue collaboration with Christina Aguilera, Pink (pre-P!nk) and Lil’ Kim (post-jail). (She has a kind of sad Instagram account filled with new age-y fashion selfies and pictures of flowers, and apparently has a new album coming out. You go, Mya!)

I’ve Storified the live-tweeting here, so please–drink several glasses of arsenic-filled cheap wine like I did and enjoy yourself.