This little known film offers a peek into the world of social ballroom dancing that holds true even today. The disco contest dates this film a bit, but it's fun to go back to when disco was included as part of ballroom competitions.
The movie consists of three small stories, tied together by a main character named Cleo. Part participant, part observer, she appears in all three stories. Each story is named after a particular dance.
"The Hustle" rings true, as it is about a dance escort/gigolo (played by a very young Christopher Walken), who tries to juggle three women in his life. He is kept by an rich, older woman (Joan Copeland), but tries to woo and seduce her much younger, recently divorced friend (Geraldine Chaplin). He was also a former lover/student of Cleo's, who feels she still has some ownership, albeit secondary, with the young man. Chaplin's character tries to make an honest man out of Walken's gigolo, but cannot compete with the perks and money offered by the rich woman and Cleo.
I am a ballroom dancer, and see these types of men all the time. Like Walken's character, these "escorts" are merely users and rather sleazy individuals who prey on rich widows with an eye towards money, security, and gifts in exchange for dancing, companionship and sexual services.
"The Peabody" depicts a woman (Lilia Skala) who is never satisfied with her dance partner, always picking on him or complaining about him. She doesn't realize how wonderful her partner was until it's too late. Shortly after her partner dies, we see her talking to somebody in the restroom, an unknown person, who turns out to be Death. Her time is also limited on earth as well; she desires one last chance dancing in a Peabody competition.
Again, I have seen so many couples in which one partner always complains about the other. I have seen couples openly fight on the dance floor and never agree on anything. It is only when the partner leaves that the complainer realizes what he/she has lost, just like Lilia Skala's character.
In spite of the dated hairstyles, costumes and disco dancing, this film has a timeless quality that holds true today. If you are a ballroom dancer, you don't have to look very far to find these characters in your ballroom community.