Taglines: Some people fall in love, some people step in it.
It’s Halloween, and New England contractor Wiley Boon, married to his high school sweetheart Sandra and the father of three children, feels smothered after fifteen years of the same routine and is facing a midlife crisis. His best friend, local school board president Sam Manners, is on the verge of starting a relationship with Adie Nims, a recent transplant from Florida and the new teacher at the grade school.
During Thanksgiving dinner, Wiley and Sandra have a minor disagreement that prompts him to leave his family and move into a mobile home to sort through his feelings of emotional unrest. Using subsequent holidays as a background, the film focuses on both their efforts to recapture the magic of their early years together.
Sweet Hearts Dance is a 1988 American comedy drama film directed by Robert Greenwald. The screenplay by Ernest Thompson centers on two small town couples, one married for several years and the other at the beginning of their relationship.
The film was shot on location in Hyde Park, Vermont at Brendan Mullins’ house. Mayor of Burlington, future Vermont Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders makes a cameo appearance in the film.
Film Review for Sweet Hearts Dance
Susan Sarandon, Jeff Daniels and Elizabeth Perkins play residents of a small, picturesque, rather too ingrown Vermont village in ”Sweet Hearts Dance,” and Don Johnson is there, too. So there arise some blunt but inevitable questions: can Mr. Johnson hold his own in this company? Has television stardom made him too much of a commodity to fit comfortably into an ensemble film like this? Will there be large-screen life for him after ”Miami Vice”?
It turns out that Mr. Johnson is a disarming, funny and natural actor who appears as much at home in this small-town, no-frills setting as he does at the center of television’s drug trade. What’s more, the rapport between the film’s four principals is so well established that its romantic quadrille about the various ups and downs of two humorously contrasting couples really does come to life.
Mr. Johnson and Miss Sarandon play the story’s old marrieds, with three children (among them Justin Henry, who has grown from the adorable tot of ”Kramer vs. Kramer” to a large and amusingly sullen teen-ager) and not a lot of fire in their lives. Mr. Daniels and Miss Perkins, on the other hand, play a school principal and a new teacher who are just getting their love affair off to a start, albeit a rocky one. The principal, Sam Manners, does ask the teacher, Adie Nims, to marry him during the story. But, as he assures her while he’s asking, he’s ”just kidding, just kidding.”
So ”Sweet Hearts Dance,” which opens today at the Criterion Center and other theaters, approaches love as a series of fits and starts. It approaches narrative in much the same way, which would be more of a problem if the film were not so enjoyably loose-jointed anyhow. As written by Ernest Thompson (”On Golden Pond”) and directed by Robert Greenwald, the film is structured as a series of cute, breezy episodes tethered to various holidays and generally making the point that love isn’t easy. Even the film’s more dramatic moments, as when Mr. Johnson’s Wiley Boon bursts into tears and tells his friend Sam that he isn’t happy with his wife, Sandra, anymore, are handled with a mercifully light touch.
”Sweet Hearts Dance” tends to drift, but it has good humor and an easygoing appeal, not to mention a thoroughly attractive cast. Mr. Daniels, who is always a delight in fall-guy roles, has an especially appealing one here, and Miss Sarandon makes the lot of the long-suffering Mrs. Wiley Boon seem funny and real. Mr. Johnson is nicely self-mocking as a man who gets winded trying to chase egg-throwing teen-agers on Halloween (and a man who’d not-so-secretly like to be out throwing eggs himself). Miss Perkins makes Adie understandably charmed and mildly perplexed as the new arrival to this picture-perfect (and otherwise nicely imperfect) rustic scene.
Sweet Hearts Dance (1988)
Directed by: Robert Greenwald
Starring: Don Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Jeff Daniels, Elizabeth Perkins, Kate Reid, Justin Henry, Holly Marie Combs, Heather Coleman, Laurie Corbin
Screenplay by: Ernest Thompson
Production Design by: James Allen
Cinematography by: Tak Fujimoto
Film Editing by: Janet Bartels-Vandagriff, Robert Florio
Costume Design by: Bobbie Read
Set Decoration by: Robin Peyton, Lynn Smart
Music by: Richard Gibbs
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures
Release Date: September 23, 1988