So this is how it happened! Fidel’s revolution didn’t break the backbone of a naïve Cuban population—it merely put an end to interracial shagging. Though Batista has one foot out the door, Katey Miller (Romola Garai) and her bourgeois parents move to the Caribbean isle nonetheless because the Revolution doesn’t seem to effect gringos who live in five-star hotels. Katey is all peaches-and-cream, but she’s propelled to go slumming after a white twerp gets too grabby and a catty bitch (January Jones) refers to waiter Javier (Diego Lunda) as a “stupid spic.” Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights would have you believe that the sole purpose of Castro’s Revolution was to rid Cuba of a dangerous American presence, and though the film’s gringos are certainly icky, so are the natives. Here, the Revolution is specious background noise (call it Cliffs Notes Batista), and more important than Javier’s non-descript cries for freedom (from what and for who exactly?) is Katey’s bourgeoning womanhood and independence. She wants Cuban dick and goddammit it if anyone is going to get in her way! Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is being touted as a re-imagination of the 1987 mega-hit Dirty Dancing, but this unofficial prequel more accurately evokes a kitschy blend of Lambada and Star Wars. Look no further than Javier’s feel-the-force dance lessons, which look to teach Katey “the dance of slaves.” He says, “Just feel the music,” and when she observes the natives dancing, she remarks, “Look at how they feel the music.” He wants her to “touch that part,” but does she really know what part he wants her to touch? Oh, you naïve white girl, you’re more naïve than your naïve teacher. If Dirty Dancing was plain bad, Havana Nights is just plain offensive. Director Guy Ferland doesn’t understand the importance of dance to the Cuban people, the way music acts as an outlet for the body-politic—rhythm as revolution against stasis. Katey and Javier bump-and-grind to the supreme shock of everyone around them and the filmmakers have a darling time emphasizing the “dirty” in Dirty Dancing. When the bourgeoning lovers enter the Latin club La Rosa Negra (because black, naturally, is the most sinister color, especially with a sibilant “r” rolling off the tongue), Katey beholds not a revolution of movement but an itchy bacchanalia of Cuban peasantry—sweaty natives rubbing each other at near mach speeds. This spectacle of salivating, rapidly moving dark matter naturally scares the fucking shit out of the upper-class ghoul played by Jonathan Jackson, but it’s one that the filmmakers will happily allow Katey to appropriate by film’s end.
- Guy Ferland
- Victoria Arch, Ronald Bass, Jonathan Bernstein, Mark Blackwell, Pamela Gray, James Greer, Christina Wayne, Boaz Yakin
- Diego Luna, Romola Garai, Sela Ward, John Slattery, Jonathan Jackson, January Jones, Mika Boorem, René Lavan
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