Alex Owens is a female dynamo: steel worker by day, exotic dancer by night. Her dream is to get into a real dance company, though, and with encouragement from her boss/boyfriend, she may get her chance. The city of Pittsburgh co-stars. What a feeling!
OSCAR winner for Best Original Song
CLICK HERE and read Classic Movie Reviews from every year and every genre!
I find it rather ironic that the releases of Julie Taymor’s new film Across the Universe to theatres and the Special Collector’s Edition DVD of the iconic 80s classic Flashdance are happening within days of each other, because, both films are quite alike in many ways. Both are highly conceptual films where slick music video style visuals and the musical score take precedence over character and story. Sometimes style over content works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I have not yet seen Across the Universe, but can definitely say that Flashdance is one film where style over content fails miserably.
Why certain films become iconic classics is one of those things that make you go “hmm” or cringe in disbelief and appall, as I did watching Flashdance. I was a wee lad of six when this movie was released in 1983 and I remember the phenomenon it created. Pre-teen and teenage girls dressed in Jennifer Beals’ trend setting look of baggy sweaters hanging off one shoulder and leg warmers, and break dancing crews doing their thing and showing off their moves in the schoolyard. Irene Cara’s classic Oscar winning theme song Flashdance…What a Feeling was blaring everywhere, and it is quite an infectious and catchy pop song that I really enjoyed then and still do today. Yet despite seeing the pop cultural impact Flashdance was making, I was unaware that it was a movie that was creating it and I never saw it in its entirety until now. And it most certainly wasn’t worth the wait.
The characters and the story of Flashdance are akin to those of the first Rocky and Saturday Night Fever. Alex (Beals), an eighteen-year-old welder by day and exotic dancer by night in Pittsburgh, dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. Alex becomes romantically involved with her day job boss, played by Michael Nouri, who begins to help her in pursuing her dream, while also being there for her friends who are all struggling in one way or another to make it in show biz.
Rocky and Saturday Night Fever also contained slick montages and performance sequences, but they were in aid of the characters and the story, which were strong in both films. Flashdance had the potential for strong characters and story, but instead went for style over content resulting in a movie that’s, for the most part, clinical, abrupt, shallow and at times just plain stupid and unwatchable. The dialogue, like Michael Nouri’s performance, is so wooden it’s painful. Particularly painful is the “lobster” scene, which is intended to be funny and sexy, but is just nauseating and silly.
Aside from the dance sequences, musical montages and score, the other saving grace of Flashdance is Jennifer Beal’s natural and nuanced performance. It was these qualities that made Flashdance into the monster hit and pop culture phenomenon that it was, but why it has become a classic is beyond me. Perhaps for the nostalgic quality the movie has acquired for the now middle-aged pre-teens and teens of the early 80s who want to reminisce about their youth during that fun and glossy decade. This Special Collector’s Edition will do just that as it contains a CD of six songs from the soundtrack, including the title track. Other bonus features include various documentaries on the making of Flashdance and its impact. But like the movie itself, they’re also rather shallow.