This engaging drama about an interracial romance doesn't stake out any new territory but is appealing in its own low-key way. Sara (Julia Stiles), a suburban teenager, is on her way to Chicago to start a new life living with her estranged father Roy (Terry Kinney). He resides in a cramped and junky apartment while working nights as a jazz trumpeter. Sara is still mourning the loss of her mother who died in an automobile crash while rushing to see her daughter's tryout for the Julliard School's ballet program.
The biggest challenge facing Sara is being one of the few whites at Wheatley High School in the ghetto. Luckily, she is taken under the wings of Chenille (Kerry Washington), an African American whose brother Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) is one of the smartest students in the school. Learning that Sara loves to dance, they all head off to Stepps, the local club. Sensing her unfamiliarity with hip hop, Derek teaches this newcomer the basics.
Their mutual love of dance soon draws these two into a relationship. Under the smooth direction of Thomas Carter (Swing Kids), Save the Last Danceexplores the tensions their interracial romance creates in the African-American community. Derek's old flame Nikki (Bianca Lawson) is jealous of this outsider and even Derek's sister wonders about the justice of a white girl taking the community's prize student Derek plans to go to college and medical school. Equally upset is Derek's buddy Malakai (Fredro Starr) who is just back from juvenile prison and rightly sees Sara as a threat to their friendship.
The most interesting aspect of Sara and Derek's relationship is the avid support he gives her when she decides to try again to get into Julliard's ballet program. Which only goes to prove once again that bolstering the self-esteem of those we love is one of the most important elements of any romantic relationship.
Special DVD features include a commentary by director Thomas Carter; the making of Save The Last Dance; Crazy from K-Ci & JO JO music video; and deleted scenes.