Saturday movie review: 'Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks'

Movies with starring roles for older women are few and far between, even for actors of legendary proportion. So it's especially exciting that SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS features three fantastic senior stars of stage and screen: two-time Academy Award-nominee and two-time Golden Globe winner Gena Rowlands in the lead plus Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy-award winner Rita Moreno and two-time Academy-Award-nominee Jacki Weaver in supporting roles.

six dance lessons in six weeks poster

Of course there are male stars, too — namely, one young fella (Cheyenne Jackson) and one senior fella (Julian Sands), and one elderly nosy neighbor (Emmy Award-winneAnthony Zerbe, believe it or not!).

SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS is based on two-time Writers Guild Award winner and Emmy nominee Richard Alfieri's popular play of the same name, which has played in 24 countries and in 14 languages. The one-line synopsis of the film, per one email offering the opportunity to screen the film: "Jackson plays a gay dance instructor assigned to work with conservative, and judgmental older woman [Rowlands] to teach her how to dance."

Yet there's far more to SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS than box step and boogie. (Actually, there is no boogie, but I liked the alliteration.) In the short play time (1 hour and 47 minutes) the characters touch on deep topics ranging from ageism and homophobia to Alzheimer's, unhappy marriage and fundamentalist Christianity. Most importantly, though, it's about tolerance and acceptance. And unexpected friendship.

What I most enjoyed about the film: Like I said, it's fantastic to see older women getting plum parts. All three female leads — Rowlands, Moreno, and Weaver — show their comedy chops throughout. Sometimes subtle and sarcastic, others overt and hilarious, especially in Weaver's horny widow Irene Mossbecker.

Cheyenne Jackson, whom I'd never seen before, plays a sarcastic, snippy, foul-mouthed match to Gena Rowlands. They banter back and forth in biting snips and snaps for most of the film. Because of their friction, the sweet moments between the two are exceptionally tender. 

What I didn't like all that much: Some of the acting seems stilted and forced — and unrealistic even, in some spots. Especially regarding most scenes in the dance studio, meaning the parts played by Julian Sands and studio receptionist Kathleen Rose Perkins (which surprised me because she was great in GONE GIRL and SKELETON TWINS).

The cinematography was pretty blah, with many scenes very clearly filmed on a set rather than outdoors as they pretended to be. But, as it's a film based on a play, that can be forgiven and not given my "seemed like a Lifetime movie" label; perhaps such was an intentional homage to the staged production.

All in all, SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS proved to be a fun and sometimes thought-provoking romp with some fabulous senior stars and an endearing young man (Jackson) whom I hope to see more of.

Here, a brief interview with lovely Gena Rowlands and handsome Cheyenne Jackson:

SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS (not rated) opened December 12, 2014 (yesterday) in California and NYC. Plans for further release were not available. For more information, follow the film on its Facebook page and on Twitter.

Disclosure: I received a free screener for this film; all opinions are my own.