“Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action” wrote Ian Fleming in Goldfinger. Or if it’s fashion rather than Cold War, three is a trend. As it approaches its 25th birthday, Dirty Dancing hit and final scene soundtrack Time of my Life has been trending on the screens, big and small, becoming shorthand for seduction and great love stories. It has reached trope status in romantic comedies as a turning point scene for plots and characters.
The scene is so ingrained in pop culture the viewer is bound to know it (even if, like me, this is the only thing s/he’s seen of the original movie). S/he projects his/her own feelings and take on it. It acts as a blank canvas, strengthened by the role the song has played in his/her own life and assists in the identification of the viewer with the characters reenacting the dance.
1- The accident: Glee (2010)
The early days of Glee saw the cast reenact many American classics. Considering 2010 was in the midst of a 1980s revival, Time of my Life was particularly well timed. It adds seriousness to the Sam-Quinn relationship while hinting to the difficulties they’ve met and happier times ahead. That’s the advantage of a classic song: the background is so strong and well-known it can tell more than a dialogue, even if the rendering verges on appalling.
2- The coincidence: L’Arnacoeur (Heartbreaker)(2010)
In French hit romantic comedy Heartbreaker, Romain Duris breaks up couples for a living by convincing women they’re better off single or with a different partner. His latest job is oenologist Vanessa Paradis, an heiress with an immoderate love of Dirty Dancing. The 1980s film becomes a thread unfolding common interests, real and assumed, culminating in a rendition of the dance scene in an Italian restaurant with both actors wearing clothes updated from the original movie. It reveals what we all knew: they’re in love.
3- The trend: Crazy, Stupid Love (2011)
The Dirty Dancing reference in Crazy, Stupid Love follows a similar aim: showing that the serial dater who never falls in love can, in fact, fall in love. Ryan Gosling introduces the dance as his ultimate move to get girls into bed, which seduces an already willing but very sarcastic Emma Stone. The filming was apparently less romantic, with Stone suffering from a panic attack and a double replacing her during the scene.