One Liner Review:
A movie that is very eighties, this one is mostly about the atmosphere and music with a story that seems pretty routine, but does pick up in the second half.
Flashdance is an okay movie. This film is known for its music and its images, but those things really don’t amount too much. Especially when they all happen in the first few minutes of the film. That’s when we get the song, “What A Feeling,” and also the image of Alex (Jennifer Beals) on the chair with water coming down on her. So then the rest of the movie is about the plot, and unfortunately it’s pretty thin. Alex is a steel worker during the day and an exotic dancer at night. She hits it off with the owner of the steel mill, and they start dating, while Alex debates about whether or not she should audition for a dance company. That’s about it. For a while, it seems like the movie is going nowhere fast, but luckily it picks up in the second half as both Alex and her best friend turn down some pretty dark paths.
An iconic 80s movie, Flashdance captured the hearts of American youth during that time, with its poppy music, dancing, and colorful atmosphere. The movie itself is just okay, and as far as story goes, there’s nothing all that memorable going on here. And yet for some reason this movie found a way to remain popular for decades, to the point where even if you don’t know the story, you certainly know the images. In fact, that’s the very reason right there. The images. This movie has a few things that make it iconic. One is the image of our protagonist, Alex (Jennifer Beals,) lying back on a chair with water splashing over her. The other is the music. Specifically the song, “What a Feeling.”
Unfortunately for the movie, both things appear at the very beginning. The “What a Feeling,” song appears with the opening credits. Then the first time we meet our protagonist, Alex, (Jennifer Beals,) she’s doing that chair dance scene with the water coming down on her. And just like that, there’s not a whole lot to look forward to. Luckily the movie does play the song again, towards the end. And to be fair, it’s not as if this movie could have known which moments would be considered iconic (and is in fact lucky to have any of those.) But as a viewing experience, it’s a little disheartening to have the shots and moments you know and are excited about all end within the first few minutes of the film.
And that leads to the story. Alex is a welder by day, and a dancer at night. For dancing, she works at this somewhat seedy club of exotic dancers like her best friend, Jeanie. Everyone wants to make it out of there and into something bigger, including the cook (and Jeanie’s boyfriend,) Richie. He wants to be a standup comic, although he is constantly telling the worst jokes ever that he is the only one who laughs at. Alex spends most of her time here, since this seems to be where her social life is. There’s even a villainous character, Johny, (Played by Lee Ving from Clue,) who hangs out at the club and is trying to recruit girl to come work for him at his strip club.
When she’s not at this dance club, Alex is either hanging out at her huge New York City apartment, (one of those that there’s no way in the world she would be able to ever afford,) or at her welding job. With that one, the whole situation is strange. She’s surrounded by older, dirty men doing grunt work. And she’s the only woman there. This is very different then the more recent version of women doing this kind of job on screen, in North Country, where there were at least other women working there too, (Charlize Theron, Michele Monaghan, and Frances McDermond.) Here, with Alex being the only woman in the whole place, something feels strange. And we’re told that she’s only eighteen too, which makes the welding job even harder to believe.
It also makes the relationship pretty tough to believe, between Alex and her boss, Nick. One night, while working at the dance club, Nick happens to stop in and sees her. He is told by someone that this girl, Alex, works for him. The next day at work, he finds her at the site, and starts up a chat. Pretty soon, they are having lunch together. Alex rejects Nick’s advances, saying that she doesn’t date coworkers, and he jokingly says that she’s fired. Not long after that, the two do start dating, despite the clear age difference, (she is only a teenager, after all.)
But the movie needs to be about more than just this strange romance and her longing to make it into a dancing company. And so it also gives us some pretty forced subplots about her friends. Jeanie wants to be a pro ice skater. We see the two girls over at Jeanie’s house, talking to her less then supportive parents about it. Then we see Jeanie get her big audition on the ice, where everyone shows up to support her, including her parents. And Jeanie blows it, falling twice. The next thing you know, Jeanie’s boyfriend is moving away, she’s dating the guy who owns the strip club, and she’s working as a full on stripper. It’s a story that moves in every direction imaginable, way too fast. Sure, it’s interesting and upsetting, but a little more connectivity would have gone a long way to help us see how she got from point A to point B.
Speaking of the boyfriend, we also see Ritchie try his stand up act in the exotic dance club. And it’s a mess. This guy just is not funny at all. And yet, the next thing you know, he’s packed his bags and is moving to the west coast to try his luck in the comedy scene out there. What is definitely a common theme here is the idea of moving to a new place or job and figuring out what you want to do with your life. Both Jeanie and Ritchie had tryouts that didn’t go very well, and yet he Dane out of his positive, and with her, she ended up working in a strip club. It’s pretty upsetting, and luckily Alex shows up to Jeanie’s new place of business to help her friend out.
But there are other subplots going on here too. Like Alex’s mentor, an elderly woman who was once a ballerina. Alex doesn’t really have parents or adult guidance in her life, (we never learn why,) and so this elderly women is the closest thing she has in that department. The woman pushes Alex to audition for the dance company, and she shows up to the audition, but gets intimidated and leaves. The next thing you know, this elderly woman is leaving Alex too.
Between her friends Jeanie and Ritchie leaving, and now her elderly mentor too, it’s no wonder that Alex is a mess. And she most certainly is. When she catches Nick getting into a car with another woman, Alex drives up to his house and throws a rock through the window. Now, what if that woman was his sister or something. And it does turn out that Alex is mistaken about things. She goes nuts again when she learns that Nick helped pull some strings to get her an audition with the dance company, this time getting out of the car in the middle of traffic in a tunnel.
But despite all this, Nick stays with her. He’s a guy who wants to help fix the broken girl who’s been dealt a bad deck of cards. And so all things lead to the inevitable dance audition climax. There are lots of loopholes and questions of logic throughout this movie, but there are also some pretty interesting developments as well. Particularly in the second half. Between Alex’s friend becoming a stripper and going to work for the villain on the movie, to Alex and her crazy, erratic behavior, there are certain things in this movie that just wouldn’t fly in a mainstream movie today. But back in the eighties, when this thing was made, they were still pushing boundaries and taking chances in ways that were pretty surprising.