& now a blow-by-blow account of Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

Are we watching Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights now? Everyone seems to think it’s the worst, but everyone’s been wrong before, so let’s not fuck around, let’s dive right in.

still shots of cuba
november 1958

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snapshot montage + voiceover
katey miller is in the final year of high school, she likes jane austen, does she like anything else?
nope that’s all we’re getting, character-wise
‘and then my parents announced we were moving to cuba’

montage of sexy dancing on the streets, in the clubs, bodies and smiles and grins

do we need the based on true events tag? do we really?

‘slamming doors and giving the silent treatment didn’t change matters – but it was easier than admitting I was scared’

they arrive at a fancy hotel, in voiceover we learn that katey doesn’t know shit about cuba

then we see some teens smoking by the poolside
they are both gross but that’s teens I guess
they make snide remarks about katey as she goes to sit by the pool in her black dress
‘she’s a regular june cleaver’ wtf is that
her sister says ‘she’s a real brain’ but with no real venom or passion
the teen boy with the big pouty lips looks intrigued by her
obv he is planning on using her up and tossing her out when he’s done with her b/c he is scum

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he invites her over he says ‘pleasure to meet you’ in a scummy voice & then says ‘your dad works for my dad’ b/c power
this film’s gonna be all about power
the power of political forces operating on a massive scale, the power of the human spirit
but most of all the power of dance

they are chatting and I hate them
katey and the preppy snide little fuckwits
one of them disses her outfit and then the waiter drops a tray
the waiter apologises and the preppy bitch calls him a ‘stupid spic’ where he can hear
katey is sad and the waiter is sad
she gives the girl a nasty glare and fucks off

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katey goes into the hotel to apologise to the waiter kid
he blows her off he is annoyed
but whatevs you know it clearly got to him

now in her hotel room watching weird 1940s home camera footage of her parents ballroom dancing
there’s a beautiful moment where we see katey and her dad come to terms over the way she’s been acting
which would make more sense if we’d been introduced to them even remotely before this scene

her dad says ‘you’ll do great here too’ and then they do a shithouse dance
and katey’s like ‘I can’t stand on your feet any more’ it’s fucking weird and awkward
they laugh and it’s a little saucy but mostly it’s just awkward

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now katey’s at her new school and all the kids in uniform don’t like her because she is new and also sitting in a slightly brighter light than all the others
classic USA classroom layout
probs true to the era, who knows
and the teacher tells her to read out some lines
it sounds like a slice of homer’s odyssey, it’s something about a group of ppl ‘losing themselves in song and dance and pleasure’

her voice is husky as fuck and I’m down with it

the teacher asks ‘why does athena want the suitors to keep attacking odysseus’ house’ and katey’s like ‘she wants odysseus to find his strength through adversity’ and it’s basically a very significant thing for a person to say

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there is so little sexual chemistry between the students of this stylised 1958 cuban high school it’s astounding

the blowjob with pouty lips comes to the classroom after hours

blowjob – you know a lot of girls don’t like to let on that they’re smart

katey – I know I should’ve kept quiet

blowjob – no I like that. I like that about you.

the sun shines past him and she nervously smiles and she is afraid, so afraid, of letting her guard down, but she wants to so desperately

he’s asking her on a date to the country club on saturday night
and he makes a joke about homer and the iliad and the odyssey and she says yes and she has so much earnestness

the next morning she misses the bus
I think her bitch sister tells the bus driver to leave without her, I’m not sure why, is she just filled with hate?
the sister figure needs some work honestly

so katey’s walking through havana
badly lost
she’s just come to a fountain
and there is a dance party happening
the waiter from the other day is boogying with all these peeps on the street
it is legit as fuck but also kinda weird and I don’t know what to say about it

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he sees her and goes over to her
‘you felt a sudden urge for cuban music’
he offers to walk her back to her hotel
walking home it’s all getting to know you shit
she hasn’t figured out what she wants to do yet
which is a shit thing because I wish she had some definable characteristics
any fucking thing

btw I know it’s an aside but the soundtrack is mixed so loud in this film there is music going all the time and it’s just dominating, it’s amazing anyone in cuba can hear themselves think

the waiter walks katey home and there’s a bunch of cops arresting peeps on the street for some reason and she flees, when she gets home her mum is stressed

mum – where’ve you been?


katey – just walking home

now she’s in the mirror wearing 3/4 pants trying to move cuban style – she’s bad and out of time AND YET she has a certain indefinable something (maybe it’s the fact that she’s been cast as the lead in this hollywood dance film, but I feel she could probably cut a rug if it came down to it)

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so now she’s practising dancing in the mirror and

javier – Why do you look in the mirror?

katey – I was trying to remember those steps I saw

javier – What does looking have to do with it? Just feel the music.


for some reason the cuban maid is now helping her out with a sexy dress, I don’t know why, they have no relationship that I can discern

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her troll sister is having a tantrum cause katey’s going to the country club with the weird blond blowjob and she’s not, I can’t read the sister at all, she has anger issues of some colossal scale. I’m placing money, if anyone’s willing to take the bet, on Katey and sister having a reconciliation in soft voices in a bedroom scene at the 60 minute mark of the film. Bring it.

Alright now we’re off to country club. There are heaps of white kids, they’re playing rock and roll, katey’s dad is dropping her off and smoking a huge cigar, but also gives her a weird wink like he’s her wingman

the teens are dancing to a revved up version of the high school hop. all the bitch girls make snarky remarks DESPITE THE FACT THAT SHE LOOKS SO MUCH LIKE THEM I CAN’T TELL THEM APART

the boss’ blowjob son has great slicked hair and he’s being polite but also kinda specious. some other teenager is hating on her. later on there’s a cover of sam cooke’s You Send Me and I’m all about that. I mean how can I argue with that?

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one of the skeezy bitches invites katey and blowjob to her house for a mojito party with more snide remarks ‘I’m sure I can fix you up a SHIRLEY TEMPLE’ (snide wink) which who even the fuck knows, but katey pulls alpha female rank and tells her that she and blowjob are going to a cuban club that teen dancer has told her about.

we get to the club, this is the watermelon scene from dirty dancing 1, there’s all sorts of sexy dancing except I’ll level with you, it’s missing something from that first scene where Baby encounters the camp staff grinding in Dirty Dancing 1, and what it’s missing (I think) is the relaxed sexuality, the weary but earnest pressure of couples working off a busy day being servile for assholes by getting right up close to the one they love and fucking working it, before (presumably) going and having urgent exhausted sex. This scene is better lit, but with way less choreography and less on-the-verge-of-fucking-right-now scenes.

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Katey – Look at the way they’re feeling the music!

I’m not kidding, that’s a line that the screenwriter put in the script that the actress literally said and the director actually filmed and the editor didn’t chop out in the final cut. Read it again:

Katey – Look at the way they’re feeling the music!

I mean, okay.

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Javier is dancing with two girls at the same time, he comes over and immediately he and blowjob have a male stand-off. Frankly, blowjob is pretty polite and respectful, even though Javier is being pretty snarky. Javier asks to dance with Katey, and immediately they start grinding, with Blowjob looking on awkwardly – AS I WOULD DO IN THE SAME SITUATION!

Blowjob gets threatened by a bunch of cubans at the bar, and honestly it’s pretty intense. I’m starting to like this fuckwit, and Javier needs to step up his game.

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There’s a bit of a show between the two best dancers in the bar, ‘when they dance the floor is theirs’ – it’s nice but everyone is giving it way too much time, what’s wrong with everyone just dancing?

Blowjob, having been physically threatened and managing to keep his cool, watches while Javier introduces Katey to his entire family, and then he elegantly excuses them and they head.

Now Blowjob physically assaults her in the car, she slaps him and flees, she runs back into the bar with a torn dress, Javier takes her home


they’re walking barefoot in the sand, making awkward teen talk. They have really fuck all to say to each other. Meanwhile Katey’s bitch sister is behind a tree or something and watches them eye-fuck each other.

Look it’s not bad, but you can almost hear the director off-camera saying ‘BE MORE ATTRACTED TO EACH OTHER’ and the actors are giving him blank looks and are like ‘how even does one do that’

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and what
it is patrick swayze
for some reason
it is literally patrick swayze, it is really the real him
dancing with some chicks

(it’s called Johnny’s Mambo, I know because I spent last week watching Hanna and Lloyd learn it, bless their coordinated feets)

one for the fans I guess? What’s really frightening about this scene, though, is that we see Johnny Castle, the hero of Dirty Dancing 1 (which takes place in 1963), in Cuba five years earlier (this film takes place in 1958) AND HE IS CLEARLY 25 YEARS OLDER

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It’s just fucking disturbing. Nothing about this situation is good. I’ve heard nothing about these films employing time travel as a trope, or any speculative mechanism whereby Swayze could grow YOUNGER in the intervening 5 years, it’s not even possible.

doesn’t look like he’s dancing with jennifer grey, tho, unless things have really gone topsy turvy.

I’m not happy about this scene, guys, I’m just fucking not.

Katey is standing at the corner and Patrick Swayze instructs her to enter the big dance contest. ‘I’ve seen you practising,’ he says. When? Where? WHO IS KEEPING TRACK OF WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS MOVIE?

Blowjob chases Katey to apologise for climbing all over her in the car. Then he tells her that Javier’s been fired b/c bitch sister told on him and how he was seen with Katey. ┬ásister is afraid and confused and gets racist when katey confronts her

sister – he’s not like us

kateyThere is no us.

This is profound, unless you think about it.

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Katey goes to find Javier and his brother the revolutionary gives her shit about how she got him fired. Katey’s like ‘I know a way he can earn some money’

(she’s talking about the dance competition patrick swayze mentioned for the first time 60 seconds ago which we didn’t know had a prize until now but whatevs)

Dancing caused these problems, and dancing’s gonna get us out of them!

Javier’s brother gives her a surprisingly succinct and nice lecture on US/Cuban politics: ‘You Americans come to Cuba and pour money into the casinos, into the pockets of the gangsters who run this town, who murder innocent people.’

see now that I think’s a pretty fair and accurate depiction of, broadly, a lot of our complicity in world politics this last century.

Katey invites Javier to dance with her at the big dance contest and he sneers at her:

javier – Dance with you?

katey – I’m not that bad. You didn’t seem to mind me last night.

javier – I wasn’t trying to win a contest.

katey – Weren’t you?


At Katey’s nasty school, she leaves and sees Javier waiting for her. She has the dreamy slow-blinking look of a sexy lizard who knows she’s gonna be having sex with a cuban real soon.


javier and katey are in some kind of room somewhere, Katey’s all like ‘you need routine! you need structure!’ he’s like ‘when I dance I have no routine’

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he teaches her to make circles with her hips and oh god this is making me appreciate so much how well constructed the Wipeout / Hungry Eyes montage from DD1 is, this one is just not happening for me

katey – your frame is really weak!

javier – better?

katey – I could do without the bruises, thanks.

javier – you could fit another couple between us!

katey – it’s not gonna be a crowded room. you gotta sweep across the dancefloor.

javier – okay I can sweeeeeeep

(cut to katey’s mum trying to give her a lecture about sex while pimping her out to Blowjob as hard as a mum has ever tried to corner her daughter into doing her husband’s boss’s son)

javier – it’s like dancing with my mother’s ironing board! close your eyes.

katey – why?

javier – just do it.

and he grabs her hips and tries to loosen her up

katey – oh god, do you have to be such a guy?

javier – okay, I’ll be the girl

and look, watching him dance like a lady is bizarre but kinda hilar

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we’re watching katey and javier pulling out a whole bunch of moves at a cuban club and he goes to grope her and she pulls away and he grabs another girl and now katey’s sad and in the corner AND I DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY ARE OR WHEN THIS IS

have weeks past? is it still 1958?

now we see patrick swayze dancing alone in a ballroom. katey goes in and confesses that she entered the contest but it’s not going well.

Hang on, wait, I have a theory: what if patrick swayze is a ghost, like bruce willis or patrick swayze in those films where they are ghosts? that would explain why only katey can see him and why he has NO FUCKING PLACE IN THIS FILM

he’s gonna give her an epiphany of some kind; but what kind?

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katey – the contest is in two weeks and it’s not going well. whenever he pushes, I pull, and I’m being free, and I’m making a circle, and I’m not an ironing board any more, and it’s still not working! and now he says ‘you’re afraid’

patrick – are you?

katey – no.

patrick – too bad.


no wait for it

here it comes

patrick – if you can’t move through your fear and connect with yourself, there’s absolutely no way you’re going to connect with your partner. listen to me. I know that it’s scary as hell to let another person touch that part of you. but if you do: it’s worth it. now forget everything I said and just dance.

(i have nothing to say about this line)

now there’s another montage, this time of patrick swayze dancing with katey, and then he disappears in a sparkly puff

look no fucking around, I honestly have no real read on what that scene was about. presumably the producers were like HOW’S THE DIRTY DANCING II COMING ALONG and the director was like ‘look I keep telling you, it’s a different film, it’s set in cuba it’s about cuba’ and the producers were like I SPOKE TO PATRICK SWAYZE’S AGENT, HE’S DOWN TO DO A COUPLE OF SCENES, WRITE HIM A COUPLE OF SCENES, ALSO WE’RE SPENDING MOST OF YOUR BUDGET ON PATRICK SWAYZE’S FEE TO DO THESE SCENES SO YOU’LL HAVE TO CUT THE BUDGET YOU WERE GOING TO SPEND ON MAKING THIS FILM MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE

katey hustles to javier’s house and tells him she’s afraid. he grins

and then they’re dancing waist deep in the ocean at the beach! of course they fucking are

javier – so the movement has to be fluid… like the water

of course it does bro of course it does

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javier – this dance was the dance of slaves. when they danced it was the only time they could feel free. it’s a dance about being exactly who you wanna be in that moment. it has to feel, look, as natural as the waves.

they are doing some upright fucking here.

if and when I learn to dance for the big latin ballroom dance competition that’s on in a week to save my friend from ruin, I insist on never learning to dance in a studio – I want nothing but unusual exotic locations and epiphanies delivered by lantern-jawed dance instructors

now javier’s telling her about his father being taken away by the govt, how he’s in charge of his whole family. he has a moment of uncertainty about what he’s doing with his life and katey gets really in his face and aggressively tells him NO YOU’RE KEEPING YOUR FAMILY ALIVE THAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO

javier – if we could really win this contest, maybe I could bring my family to america with us


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and now they’re watching home videos of her parents dancing, he’s commenting on how hot it is. then katey, who is obviously aroused as hell by watching her mum circle around in flickery black and white with her dad, grabs him and they start doing slinky slow moves, face to face with the video projected on them making it look like they have ants crawling all over them

the heat. the sexual tension. it’s all… medium temperature.

katey gets home and her dad busts her and she lies to him about where she was and then goes to bed. her sister desperately wants her approval, she apologises to katey, it’s an apology scene in the bedroom and it’s… 50 mins in, I was 10 mins off.

Oh god now, for no fucking reason, we get Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie (no problems with that btw) over the top of Katey, Javier AND HER SISTER all dancing in a line, in a recap of the DD1 Hungry Eyes scene where Baby, Johnny and Penny all dance together. It doesn’t make sense. Fuckit I feel like at this point I coulda walked into the director’s trailer like a Swayze-ghost and told her/him to free themselves of the spectre of Dirty Dancing, to be your own film, the best film you can be, not this pale shadow

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but I know they had no choice, I know that the funding for this film was predicated on it being a film that it’s not, in so many ways this project was doomed from the moment they caved and allowed the producers to append DIRTY DANCING to the title (assuming that’s what happened), I can’t be mad at them. I wish them so much love.

now it’s a semi-sexy montage of javier and katey flirting and sexy dancing in a variety of locations, having fun, giggling, and katey and her sister dancing, her dad looking confused, it’s costume change after costume change, THIS is what we signed up for

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ohhhhh, it only lasted 90 seconds, it was the best 90 seconds of the film, I wish it was still happening rather than whatever’s happening now

this is a scene that happened I don’t remember what happens in it but I like both their expressions and with this film I’m taking my pleasures where I can get them

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okay it’s the big semi-final dance (only the semi-finals mind you, don’t be fooled like I was) and all the white folk are at the ballroom where the competition is happening, and no-one knows that katey is going to be dancing WITH A CUBAN

what’s funny tho is that katey has been blackmailing blowjob to pretend to be her boyfriend or else she’ll tell everyone that he assaulted her in the car and his petulant sardonic complaining has been one of my highlights, the actor is having a ball making every line drip with contempt and I love it I love him

so now they’re there and her parents think she’s dating blowjob and dancing with him and aaaaahhhh hilar

so now the music starts and – wait a minute! there’s katey and javier dancing, it’s totally sexy and absolutely beyond the pale. katey’s parents are upset, their boss are scandalised, blowjob raises one eyebrow, impressed despite himself

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katey and javier literally start making out on the dancefloor, it is kinda golden

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also I should point out that the old couple sitting next to me on this plane keep turning to each other, smiling, talking about where they might like to spend summer and then every so often reaching out and squeezing each other’s hands. this flight is good news for everyone.

katey’s parents are upset, her mum says some quite reasonable things about how maybe katey shouldn’t have lied to them so comprehensively, and then drops in a slightly racist line as well because she’s mean and full of hate

mum – what’s wrong with james, I thought you liked him?

katey – no YOU liked him, because he fits into your perfect country club world

mumthere’s nothing wrong with that world

the argument escalates and her mum slaps her and it’s a hell of a slap, honestly I think they went a bit overboard with the SFX, anything that impacted katey with so much noise would certainly have killed her

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her mum hates her so much

we get a scene where mum and dad reflect on their own frustrated passions as ex-dancers and I don’t give a shit

katey wakes up and javier is there reading, she tells him that she is not going to college if it means leaving him, he doesn’t want her to give up her dreams for him, she’s like ‘but I have new dreams now’ and it’s perky and cute but also, fucking hell, teens

her family reconcile with her, no consequences, whatevs, she’s allowed to dance in the finals, her mum thinks she’s a good dancer, I aren’t give a fuck about them, katey’s family is the most boring part of this film

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javier meets katey’s parents STILL BORED SKIPPING IT

okay now they’re at the big final dance ballroom I think, the announcer says ‘tonight the winning couple will win $5000 and tickets to america’, the first couple start dancing, katey and javier and getting psyched out by the competition

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but now they get into their own dance and, look, here I can’t really fault the choreography, it’s not earth-shattering but fuckit it’s the grand final dance competition in a dance film, this is why we’re here, however hard we all worked as viewers to get to this point, this is really it. and was it worth it? well I mean it’s okay.

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except the cuban waiters start shooting guns THE REVOLUTION IS HAPPENING – javier saves a waiter from being shot by a US military and then flees the restaurant – revolution on the streets, crowd scenes, this is where the film-makers get to show off how many extras they could afford

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this revolution primarily involves people jumping up and down. sometimes they are cheering but the vast majority are simply bouncing up and down on the spot. I mean true confession I’ve never been in a revolution situation and maybe the majority of social struggle takes place through the medium of bouncing up and down, but it feels to me like these were the scenes they left til the very last minute to film and had no real investment in

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still tho, bouncing

back at the hotel, katey and javier embrace, she hugs him like crazy. I’m actually really struck by her hugging – I’m not sure about the chemistry, but fuck this girl looks like she means it when she hugs you

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Javier and Katey have unexpected sex on the beach (HOW DID THEY GET TO THE BEACH? WHAT IS HAPPENING? I need to give up asking these questions)

k they wake up next morning after having fucked all night on the beach IN THE MIDDLE OF A REVOLUTION (leave it david just leave it)

javier – we didn’t win the contest

katey – no. but the consolation prize was pretty good

(the joke here is that first they didn’t win a competition but then they had sex)

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now katey’s shitty because the revolution has happened javier doesn’t want to leave cuba any more.

I don’t feel a lot of sympathy for this extremely wealthy girl in this reasonable situation. katey has to leave. javier has to stay. this seems legit to me. her mum comes in to comfort her and I already hate her NO WAIT IT’S WORSE THAN I THOUGHT:

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mum – give me that comb, let me comb your hair. when you were little, you used to hide under the bed when I came in to comb out the knots. now you have a choice: you can hide under the bed…

katey – …or I can comb out the knots.


she comes to say goodbye to javier with amazing hair and lighting.

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katey – I’m gonna miss you

javier – I’m gonna miss you

katey – I am… taking you with me

javier – I am… keeping you here (hand on heart)

WILL THEY DANCE? WILL THEY DANCE? Will there play a latin reworking of ‘I’ve Had The Time Of My Life’? Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

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And now a sudden unexpected voiceover:

katey – Javier once said that dancing is about being exactly who you are in that moment. Dancing with Javier I realised I was becoming exactly the woman I wanted to be.

(the fuck does that even MEAN?)

katey – We didn’t win the contest. But we did win something even more important.


katey – On my final night in Havana, we were king and queen of the local nightclub


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katey – We didn’t know when we would see each other again, but we knew… that this wasn’t our last dance.

And, roll credits. The End.




okay so what have we learned? what has this fim TAUGHT us?

1. we learned about the cuban revolution. after seeing Havana Nights, I can confidently tell you that the cuban revolution happened.

2. when two people from different worlds fall for one another, nothing can keep them from each other except their families’ expectations, social mores and logistics

3. There Is No Us

4. there are some things patrick swayze can’t fix

5. the old lady next to me just got up to go to the bathroom and when she returned to her seat she took her husband’s face in both hands and kissed him on the mouth, I adore them so much

6. I will forgive a movie basically any amount of shit if it just gives me 90 seconds of shakira’s hips don’t lie