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Dance Me Outside (1994)

by on 2013/07/06

Dance Me Outside (1994)

“More than you know, Frank. More than you’ll ever know.”

* * * *

Based on the work of W.P. Kinsella. Co-written by Don McKellar. Produced by Norman Jewison. Directed by Bruce McDonald. Such an all-star CanCon team could scarcely miss the mark.

In fact, my single greatest gripe about Dance Me Outside is the blurb on the front of the DVD packaging: “Bill and Ted on the Reservation”. With all due respect to Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, that quote is both inaccurate and insulting, missing the nuance and sociopolitical relevance of what it’s describing.

Set in Sucker Lake, in the Parry Sound region of Ontario, this film is a kind of narrative mosaic, weaving together disparate threads. It’s so improbably cohesive, you may not even distinguish the individual elements. Ostensibly focused on Silas (Ryan Black) and Frank (Adam Beach of Flags of Our Fathers), a sprawling cast surrounds them, each member unique, given more than a slim fraction of the story.

A Toronto lawyer tries to fit in with the native community. A woman wants to get pregnant, possibly just to please her mother. A notorious ex-convict has a difficult time going straight. A local bully is let off easy being white. The leading pair want to be big city mechanics. Their girlfriends become political activists. And a group of their friends decide violence is preferable to diplomacy.

Everything is complicated by their personalities, most of them obsessively drinking, being rowdy and provocative, pranking, and fighting. Many are naive, confused, and misguided. Frank in particular has phenomenally poor judgment, which the relatively thoughtful Silas must deal with.

As with most movies, I was reminded of others. Here, I thought of FUBAR sometimes, and even the Trailer Park Boys. In tone, however, it more closely resembles 45 rpm. More eclectic than any of them, it features a drama with goofy humour and romance, building to a suspenseful denouement.

It’s a slow burn, without a doubt and, early on, I found it strangely plodding, unfocused, and generally uninvolving. Yet, with time and tolerance, the various threads converge and connect to form a satisfying result. I’m not suggesting it’s a happy ending, nor unhappy, nor an ending at all. If it lacks in resolution, then it benefits in refusing to preach at us.

I was unsurprised to learn Dance Me Outside spawned a TV series, The Rez. Its wide scope, diversity, and even loose ends provide a good base from which to build. At the least, it’s a unique look at an oft-unseen side of ourselves.

* * * *

Rated R

85 minutes

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