There is a lot to love about the wheelchair dance movie, Musical Chairs, which is playing on HBO this whole month. First, it features Push Girl Auti Angel, and here at New Mobility we are die-hard Auti Angel fans. Our pal from Philadelphia, Clark Matthews, also has a cameo in the big dance scene. Second, it’s a sweet confection, the ultimate date movie. Sure, despite a few twists, it’s predictable. So don’t think too hard on it, just relax and enjoy it. Third, the Latin music is outstanding! As is, of course, the dancing. I just wish there was more of both.
The story follows Mia (played by Leah Pipes), an ‘uptown’ dancer who catches the eye of Armando (played by E.J. Bonilla), a young man with a very large, loving family and not much money. So of course they’re destined to fall in love, but first Mia ends up in rehab after acquiring an SCI as a result of being struck by a car. She’s devastated, of course, and angry, believing she’ll never dance again (I did say it’s predictable).
Armando, also an aspiring dancer, sees his chance to get closer to Mia by immersing himself in wheelchair dance, including using a chair himself so he can work better with Mia, and then convincing Mia to compete in a dance contest with him. And that’s the story line, basically.
Did I mention Auti Angel’s in the film? She plays a “tough, street-wise girl” role. Here’s her funniest bit of dialog:
Rude child asks her why she uses a wheelchair. “Cuz I got drunk and fell out of a window,” she replies.
“My Papi gets drunk,” replies the rude child.
“Yeah? He ever fall out of a window?,” she quips.
“Do you like having wheels?,” the obliviously rude child continues.
“Would you like having a wheelchair stuck to your ass?,” she responds.
But then when she dolls up for the dance competition, she’s complimented, and has this almost demure, “really?” And we get to see Auti dance, which is always a treat.
So many communities have claimed this film by director Susan Siedelman as their own — many in the Latino community embraced it because of the spotlight on that wonderful music and the warm, slightly-overbearing New York-flavored family-centered Puerto Rican culture that infuses the movie. GLBT folks have given the film accolades because of the positive portrayal of a transgendered character.
And then our community generally gives Musical Chairs props for weaving SCI, love and dance into a delightful story. Plus, it helps that there are some actors who use wheelchairs shown in the movie.
Yes, yes, the movie is predictable. Yes, yes, it’s very sweet. But sometimes a sweet love story is perfectly what we need. Check it out and let us know what you think.