When you design dance sequences you have to take into account the skill level of the dancers involved. Make the steps too difficult, and the dancers will struggle. Make the steps too easy, and the dancer’s talents will be wasted. It’s imperative that you find that sweet spot that will keep the audience interested and the dancers engaged. Finding Your Feet doesn’t offer any fancy footwork or original steps, but the stellar UK cast shuffles through it gamely enough to deliver some genuine smiles.
This is the kind of film I would have watched with my Mum. She loved romantic comedies, and British stars like Imelda Staunton, Joanna Lumley and Timothy Spall. She also loved to dance, so Finding YourFeet would have been a winner for her. She was far less cynical than I am, and was able to look past treacly dialogue, obvious plot twists, and an overall simplistic narrative. “Not every movie has to be dark and twisted, with an ambiguous ending,” she’d say, “sometimes it’s nice to just watch a lovely movie and it doesn’t have to be anything more than that.” And she was right. Which is how she got me to sit through films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Quartet, and Calendar Girls, and keep my big mouth shut despite my inner film critic screaming into a pillow.
It was with her spirit that I went into the screening of Finding Your Feet, a romantic dramedy that finds the posh Sandra discovering her husband’s affair, then moving in with her pot smoking, free-spirited older sister in London. I knew from watching the trailer that this film was not for me, which is to say that this is a movie for the over-sixty crowd. I don’t say this to be condescending. On the contrary, there aren’t enough films that feature retirement-age women at all, let alone ones that explore the fear of having to start over when you think your life is heading into its well-earned twilight period. Of course, the brilliant and hilarious series Grace & Frankie is a standout in this ’discovering you still have a lot of life to live’ genre (beyond its legendary leads, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda), specifically because it doesn’t pander, or delve into sentimentality. But Finding Your Feet is not Grace & Frankie.
I decided to take the film at face value instead of picking apart the boiler-plate plot which sees the snobbish Sandra reluctantly joining her sister at her senior’s dance class and reluctantly falling for the working-class, boat-dwelling Charlie. I’d give a spoiler alert warning but these kinds of movies don’t need them. They thrive with their target audiences specifically because they don’t contain surprises. Will Sandra get that stick out of her ass and learn to embrace her new-found independence? Yes. Will Sandra’s cheating husband show up with his tail between his legs wanting her back? Absolutely. Will Charlie understand Sandra’s complicated situation and decide to wait for her anyway? Pretty much, yeah.
Oh right, the dancing. Almost forgot about that. A subplot involving the seniors doing a charity flash mob dance that goes viral gets them invited to perform in Rome. The dance itself is equal parts pedestrian and charming, and the audience, who is initially unimpressed, ends up giving them a standing ovation. I get that. Finding Your Feet eventually managed to win me over despite its many hackneyed contrivances. Having an amazing cast makes it easier to gloss over the missteps.
This movie isn’t going to change the world, and, like my mother said, it doesn’t have to. But if it makes some bored or stuck-in-a-rut seniors decide to take up dancing, then it’s had a positive impact. I know by the end I was smiling despite myself. I’m still more than a few years from putting on my orthopaedic dancing shoes, but when I get there I’ll give you a call.