Top positive review
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"It isn't a contest. It's a show."
on 27 November 2005
The story opens at the height of the Depression in a seedy, boardwalk auditorium. A Dance Marathon is about to begin; couples who have neither money nor hope have a chance to win a grand prize of $1500 by dancing the longest. We get to know and empathize with several couples as they dance for hours, days, and weeks before a strange crowd of spectators who throw pennies and cheer for the "show." Bitter and tired-of-life Gloria (Jane Fonda) is paired with Robert (Michael Sarrazin), a wide-eyed innocent from the country. The marathon is incredibly grueling and dehumanizing, and that's just the way the manic host (Oscar winner Gig Young) likes it.
This is a fascinating look at the dance marathons that really took place in America during the Depression, when people were willing to risk their health (and their lives) for the meals that were provided and a chance at the money. Each of the dancers we meet is unique, sympathetic, and believable. Fonda gives a masterful performance as the hopeless Gloria, and at the end she utters the wonderfull and haunting title line. Sarrazin is good, but doesn't quite have the star quality to match Fonda's. It's a sad film that brings to mind the days of Romans holding their thumbs up or down while bloodied gladiators fought to the death. The story is fittingly left unresolved, just like the bleak lives of the contestants. I recommend this outstanding film, directed by Sydney Pollack.