Friday 28 October 2022

Movie Review: Flashdance (1983)

A dance musical drama and romance, Flashdance is full of performance highlights at the expense of narrative substance.

In Pittsburgh, Alexandra "Alex" Owens (Jennifer Beals) is a steel mill welder by day and a nightclub dancer by night. Encouraged by her elderly friend Hanna (Lilia Skala), she dreams of entering the ballet academy, but having never received formal training she is intimidated by the haughty attitudes.

Alex catches the attention of her boss Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri) and they start a romance. Meanwhile her best friend Jeanie (Sunny Johnson) attempts to qualify for a figure skating competition, and falls into the clutches of a tacky strip club owner Richie (Kyle T. Heffner). Jealousies develop between Alex and Nick as she struggles to pursue her dream.

More a cultural phenomenon than a serious movie, Flashdance left an outsized legacy. Leg warmers, off-the-shoulder T-shirts, Alex's cool but outsized warehouse digs, her cute pitbull terrier, and the dextrous remove-the-bra trick are instantly recognizable cinematic landmarks. Director Adrian Lyne strings together a succession of electrifying music videos spiked with strobes, silhouettes, and hyperactive camera work, Giorgio Moroder provides the iconic music, and the images achieve eternal recognition. With Marine Jahan executing Alex's dances, the chair, lightbulbs, and water dump of He's A Dream, the audition performance of Flashdance...What A Feeling, and the thighs-like-a-machine Maniac are the stuff of legend, as is Cynthia Rhodes' stunning Manhunt.

The story does not matter, which is just as well, as the plot is essentially non-existent. The romance is embarrassingly clunky and the ballet school audition is simplistic chase-your-passion tripe. Consistent with characters who exist in a void, the script by Tom Hedley and Joe Eszterhas never bothers to explain why an independent and free-spirited modern dancer would ever want to subject herself to the stuffiness of a ballet institution. 

Jennifer Beals was catapulted into overnight stardom and delivers a delightfully alluring performance, despite only contributing close-ups to the dances. Michael Nouri barely registers, but Kyle T. Heffner achieves fingernails-on-a-chalkboard effectiveness as the worst kind of sleazeball. Jeanie's story suspiciously mimics filler material, while Cynthia Rhodes deserves more screen time.

Flashdance is a most honest title: plenty of flash, plenty of dance, and precious little else. 

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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