Plot: Alex Owens (Beals) is a beautiful young woman who works a day job in a steel mill and dances in a bar at night. When Alex discovers that her handsome boss, Nick Hurley (Nouri), is both interested in her and supportive of her performing career, she renews her efforts to get accepted into a prestigious dance conservatory. Although Alex is frightened of failure, she is cheered on by Nick, as well as by her mentor, former ballet performer Hanna Long (Skala).
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When looking for this week’s film for our #TBT Review, Carmella suggested a movie I had actually never gotten around to watching: Flashdance. Despite it’s popularity (especially with it’s fun soundtrack), this was one of those iconic 80’s movies I’d never seen. And, since the point of these #TBT Reviews is to catch me (and you, the reader) up on iconic flicks, this was a perfect fit.
So, did I miss something special back in the 80’s? Or is Flashdance outdistanced by it’s soundtrack?
Jennifer Beals is the big star of Flashdance. While she’s more known now for playing bit parts in cop shows, “Lie to Me” (TV) and her turn in The Book of Eli (2010), this was the film that started her career. Wide-eyed and looking innocent, she plays Alex, a welder by day and dancer by night, who dreams of taking ballet at a prestigious ballet school. She does a decent job in the role, but nothing fantastic. Her charisma with her co-star, Michael Nouri, seems clear, and her crush evident – a must for these types of films. Her age may be called into question by viewers, however, as she looks rather old to be playing an 18-year-old (she looks more like she’s in her mid-twenties). Surprisingly, she was just 20 at the time, but it will still remind some viewers of the old-looking “teens” from “21 Jump Street” (TV).
Aside from Jennifer, there’s not much to say about the cast of Flashdance. They play out their parts, but there’s nothing that really stands out about any of the supporting actors or actresses in this film. In fact, most are largely forgettable, and viewers will have a hard time keeping their names straight.
Flashdance obviously inspired imitators like Save the Last Dance (2001), as their plots are very similar. A blue collar girl wants to rise up out of her situation and yearns to dance professionally and be lauded for her dance skills. She meets a guy along the way who helps her achieve that dream. It’s a rather silly plot, but it has worked for numerous films over they years, and it works well enough for Flashdance too.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few problems with the details in Flashdance along the way. For example, our protagonist gets encouragement along the way from an elderly woman (played by Lilia Skala). Who is this woman? What is she to Alex? The film never answers these questions. And then there’s the matter of her friend (played by Belinda Bauer). At least it seems like she’s her friend – she could be her sister. Anyway, our protagonist finds her in a bad situation, seeming all surprised by it. But, any viewer can see this situation coming a mile away. And our protagonist could have too, if she had been paying any attention at all to her so-called friend.
While it’s well-known these days that Jennifer Beals used a body double for her dance scenes, it’s rather obvious to anyone who actually pays attention in Flashdance. They barely have the same figure, for one. And the obvious cutaway shots between the body double and Jennifer’s face are dead giveaways too. While it’s not really a problem for a star to have a body double, it becomes a problem when the director doesn’t seem to know how to make it not quite so obvious.
Defining a style for 80’s teens, Flashdance is obviously a child of the 80’s. While some of that is coming back into fashion, the thick leg warmers and off-the-shoulder shirts are very retro these days, and still look a bit silly. While some of the dance moves are dated themselves (there is breakdancing involved, after all), most of those don’t stand out too badly. But the clothes really date this film (as does the small box TV in our protagonist’s apartment).
Sure, time has had it’s way with Flashdance, but even so, I’m not quite sure why this was such a big hit back in the 80’s. Sure, the soundtrack seemed unstoppable back in the day, but the movie itself is actually not that good. With so much cheese to go around (impromptu street dance, etc.), and very little comprehensible storyline, Jennifer Beals’ wide-eyed innocent is really the only thing this film has going for it.
Maybe it’s another case of memories making the film seem better than it is. It may still be an iconic film, but looking back on it now, it’s iconic more for the fashion it inspired and the music it produced than anything that can be seen on screen. If you have fond memories of Flashdance. chances are you might be doing yourself a favor by not re-watching it again now. It’s nowhere near as good as you remember.