Ok. So, the hype has died down a bit; the Cuban Fury launch weekend, with it’s many, many, many associated salsa nights has passed; now we have a chance to look back, and with a slightly less biased eye look at the film that we hope will bring salsa somewhat closer to the mainstream.
Of course when I say ‘less biased’, I’m still an avid lover of dancing generally, and salsa specifically; so unbiased is probably an impossible target, but lets see what happens!
So… is Cuban Fury a good film?
I think it depends on how you look at the film. I’d say that as a rom-com, the ‘rom’ side of that equation is pretty uninspiring. Julia (Rashida Jones) as the female lead is not really very well developed as a character. Her role is essentially to be the ‘pretty girl for men to fight (or dance) over’. The fact that she likes salsa is really the one thing that we as the audience get to know about her, and it doesn’t seem like the hero of the film Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) gets to know her much better than us.
The ‘com’ side of the ‘rom-com’ is a bit better. Bejan (Kayvan Novak) offers most of the big laughs through the film as the delightfully camp Persian salsa dancer. He also soaks up all of the salsa stereotypes that you would expect in this film and rolls them up into one super stereotypical ball. It becomes so extreme that even the most serious of salsa dancers can’t take offense at it! Drew (Chris O’Dowd) plays the office letch (or ladies man) very well, and offers a good supporting set of laughs (though anyone that is easily offended will definitely have issues with him!) Olivia Colman as the sister, and Ian McShane as the grumpy salsa guru also both add their touches to the movie.
I think that looking at this movie as a rom-com doesn’t get the best from it however! This movie is a (salsa) dance movie, and should be judged on that basis!
And even more than that it is a movie about discovering (or-re-discovering in this case) a passion in your life and pursuing it. If you understand the movie like this it becomes apparent that Julia is a 2 dimensional character because her role in the film is to bring Bruce back to his passion. We don’t know what happens at the end of the film. Bruce and Julia never even kiss at the end! All that we do know for sure is that Bruce’s passion for salsa is re-ignited!
There is an episode of Spaced (the 90s sit com starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, if you haven’t seen it then definitely check it out, it is awesome!) in which the characters go clubbing. Now, I’m not really an active clubber any more, but back in the day I could throw shapes with the best of them… and that episode of Spaced captures the feeling of going clubbing better than anything else I have ever seen… In fact even to this day watching it makes me want to get my glow-stick and dance all night! Well… the finale in Cuban Fury is the same, but for Salsa dancing! It captures that energy, the feel good factor, the passion and the general good energy perfectly. In fact, much like that episode of Spaced, I left the movie wanting to dance the night away! (Lucky for me I was organising a salsa party for after the film.)
I hope that this passion and energy are what people take away from the film. Forget the sequins and rhinestones, the shaven chested stereotypes… just remember the happiness that dancing brings to Bruce (even before he got the girl)! In fact, Bruce himself sums it up at the end when he explains how he was lost without salsa, and now that he has it again he feels like he is himself at last… which is a good place to be. (Actual quote mangled due to rubbish memory!)