Review: The Dance Exponents - Why Does Love?

Gent and Luck have praised the documentary.
Chris McKeen

Gent and Luck have praised the documentary.

In a time when decent quality drama is thinly stretched across traditional television's schedules, there's something pleasantly old-fashioned about the idea of some Sunday night appointment viewing.

TVNZ's Sunday Theatre, albeit for just a brief three-week run, comes with that in-built assurance that whatever screens will be worth watching.

TVNZ was on safe ground starting that run - especially as parts two and three, both dealing with infamous murders, will be somewhat darker - with a biopic of the (Dance) Exponents. Who doesn't like them?

Jordan Mooney as Jordan Luck.

Jordan Mooney as Jordan Luck.

The Dance Exponents: Why Does Love? certainly had an appreciation for its subjects, offering a cheerful, cheerleading account of how five Canterbury lads began their seemingly-inexorable climb from a six-week residency at the Aranui Hotel to becoming every Kiwi's favourite.

READ MORE: The Exponents: Show me the money

There were three particularly wise decisions made in the making that made it a worthwhile two hours.

Matariki Whatarau plays bass player Dave Gent.

Matariki Whatarau plays bass player Dave Gent.

First was the inclusion as many Exponents songs as possible (although Airway Spies got a bit of a hammering) which made it feel pleasantly like standing down the back of a reunion gig at the Powerstation.

Second, rather than let the actors deliver some pale pastiche, was using the original recordings but having the stand-ins lip-synch (rather faultlessly) along to the music.

And third, having the action pivot around the relationship between lead singer Jordan Luck and bass player Dave Gent.

As Luck, Jordan Mooney captured the manic energy, the genius, the devilish grin and the sense of self-destruction, while Mataraki Whatarau expertly played Gent as the solid-citizen glue keeping the show on the road, or somewhere near it.

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While the real Gent and Luck have pointed out that an episode where they earned the wrath of record boss Mike Chunn for mislaying $5,000 in a guitar case was actually about $95,000 in a briefcase, it all seemed remarkably faithful, ticking off such waypoints such as the exit of drummer Michael "Harry" Harallambi, playing support for Bowie at Western Springs (and Luck's mother charming the Thin White Duke), the London hiatus and its missed opportunities, and the return home thanks to a second chance with Adam Holt and Polydor.

What the Luck-Gent axis did was inject enough human interest into the tale to excuse that there wasn't perhaps quite enough drama mined from the rollercoaster.

There was a great scene where an exasperated Gent drags a drunken Luck from the back of his panel van - after Luck had just sabotaged a record-label audition - and dumps him in a ditch. Just before the right hook lands, Luck grins and says 'You are amped, aren't you'. It left me wanting more such moments. 

But as a celebration of one of New Zealand's best-kept musical secrets, Why does Love? delivered what was required.

 - Stuff

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