FILMS… Flashdance (1983)

 

She’s in the mood for dancing, romancing, she’s giving it all…

 

Not to be confused with Footloose, an 18-year-old girl is a welder by day and an exotic dancer by night in a drama about dancing, love, friendships and fulfilling your dreams.

 

Flashdance – Trailer, Paramount Movies

Inspiring everyone who’s anyone from Ryan Reynolds to a doll manufacturer, this is possibly one of the most well-known dance films of the 1980s. The title song sung and written by Irene Cara in her post Fame (1980) limelight. This in her Oscar Winning song called Flashdance : What a Feeling. And a feel good, 1980s dance movie that Darlin’ Husband has been banging on about me both watching and reviewing since the day I made officially made this an entertainment review blog (after my second post).

Flashdance (1983) is a must see three times Oscar nominated film of the 1980s, that for some reason I didn’t see til recently. But in a weird reversal of normal events, I only recognised one of the cast, but had heard most of the film’s soundtrack before. Which apart from the more obvious titular track, I didn’t even realise were included in this movie. And for me, whose music collection starts with Frank Sinatra and ends with Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man (not counting film, TV and stage related music), that’s pretty good. Although I admit I couldn’t tell you who sang what and what the track was called.

The plot tells of 18-year-old Alex (Jennifer Beals) who spends her Pittsburgh days as a welder working in a steel yard. Her dream is to be a professional dancer and has hopes to be accepted by the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory. At night she has a second job as an exotic dancer in her local bar, Mawbys. There her work mates include girly best pal, Jeanie (Sunny Johnson) with her dream to be a successful ice skater, and Jeanie’s boyfriend Jack (Kyle T. Heffner) who aspires to be a stand up comic.

Alex lives alone in what seems like a giant renovated warehouse with her dog Grunt for company.  And she spends some of her days visiting an old friend, her mentor and one time ballet dancer, the elderly Hanna Long (Lilia Skala). However she looks into appyling to this school, Alex flees. One night her handsome boss, Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri) attends the bar, and she catches his eye as he sees her dancing.

Later he gallantly steps in as her knight in shining armour when she and Jack are assaulted outside the bar. Alex and Nick start a relationship, and over time and a montage they become closer and fall in love.  Alex opens up to Nick telling him of her dashed hopes but future dreams..

I did love this film, especially on recognising many of the accompanying tracks. The Flashdance soundtrack sold 700,000 copies in the first fortnight after the film’s release. And was a number one hit, and since then has sold over six million copies. All the songs  are still as catchy even now. These tracks often appearing as Alex (or her dance buddies) danced her wee heart out.  Or of course accompanying  a montage.

I recalled many of the tracks including Maniac and Laura Branigan’s Gloria. Maniac was reportedly initially nominated for an Oscar but then not included. This as the song’s lyrics had been changed to be more suitable for this movie than the previously inspired horror theme. Maniac not sung by Hall and Oates (as this musically challenged writer thought) but one Michael Sembello.

The dancing often appearing like in-film pop videos which reminded me of Beaches (1988) and I Could Go on Singing (1963). In Beaches, the film was broken up by in film musical interludes (and a chance to go to the toilet) with performances from Bette Midler’s character C.C. Bloom. However here like Garland’s wee in-film song performances (where I was transfixed by the accompanying Garland belting out some track),  I was mesmerised by “Beals” apparently dancing her socks off.

Reading more on this movie, it appears on numerous occasions Beals had dance doubles for her scenes. These including the (bizarrely) uncredited Marine Jahan, a dancer and also by a gymnast Sharon Shapiro. These scenes also including break dancing – an 1980s fad –  with Crazy Legs dancing for this actress. And reflecting on these typically 1980s choreographed tracks now,  I’m surprised one of these dances didn’t come with a warning for epileptics with its use of strobe lighting.

I did find the story a wee bit predictable now, so I urge you to watch this with new eyes. As at times my husband and I were able to spot a few story lines before they happened. And the montages. This probably due to the amount of films its inspired from Footloose (1984) to Top Gun (1986). So then when you think of the release dates this film more inspiring of those tropes than using them.

However, the story felt more real and easy to relate to due to the casting of many actors I didn’t recognise (even from back then). I confess I didn’t know anyone apart from Cynthia Rhodes from Staying Alive (1983). But until reading more on this film I hadn’t connected her as the same dancer from the film I should have. She appeared as Penny in Dirty Dancing (1987) which is infinitely better in so many ways!

I did love returning to the eighties in this film in not only its music, with me also recalling the fashion mistakes of the decade. Beals off the shoulder scooped neck sweatshirt is now the stuff of legends. This top causing a fashion craze for this style in the late 1980s. But it wasn’t a pretty thought remembering wearing white socks under your stilettos. Which I did once, and the least said on that the better. Or men in fedora hats, although later in the decade in 1986’s Pretty in Pink Jon Cryer did make this seem more stylish.

Also remembered was the joy of the unisex spiral perm as spotted by many a Dallas (1978-91) and Dynasty (1981-89) star in its heyday. And it seems by a search for this alone, Dallas star Victoria Principal is also responsible for this (and she was also to blame for my later perms in this decade). For me the thought of men with perms is always amusing when I imagine very butch men with rollers in under a hairdryer.

Behind the scenes there are some notable names. Brian De Palma was originally working on this movie, then left to work on Scarface (1983). Bizarrely the cast of Scarface had a leading actor and actress who could have possibly starred in this film in the Alex and Nick roles. Adrian Lyne, the replacement director went on to direct movies such as Fatal Attraction (1987) and Indecent Proposal (1983). And Flashdance was the first of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson collaborations.

The cast however could have made it an addition to the Brat Pack Hall of Fame with the addition of an actress who made it to the final three. With Demi Moore in the cast as Alex. Moore appeared in a don’t blink you’ll miss her role as Michael Caine’s daughter Blame it on Rio (1984) the following year. Also considered were Bo Derek, Daryl Hannah, Heather Locklear, Tatum O’Neal, Helen Hunt, Bridget Fonda, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michelle Pfeiffer reportedly auditioning for the role of Alex Owens.

Others who were in the running for Alex’s love interest included everyone from Gene Simmons (from KISS) to Al Pacino. Others read like a who’s who of Hollywood talent (even back then) with Jack Nicholson, Pierce Brosnan, Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks and John Travolta also considered for the role of Nick Hurley. And here I’m in agreement with my Darlin Husband who feels any of these actors would have inadvertently upstaged Ms Beals who was rightly centre stage in her leading role.  And it seems poor old Kevin Costner was runner-up for this film, but also took part in the audition process. He was reportedly paid 200 dollars in lie on a bed with three or four of the possible candidates for Alex including Beals.

On release, the story’s casting also led much controversy of Nouri being 36 years old during filming. This making him 18 years older than his film love interest, 18-year-old Beals. When you consider the list of possible Nicks and learn the offer of this role was also suggested to Burt Reynolds, then it’s more than apparent that his more mature age was part of his character. This also I feel was supported in the script, and in their characters and in their behaviour in some of their scenes.

The film of course is also remembered for a number of pop culture references. It was admittedly an unintentionally funny moment when I remembered Reynolds pop culture reference to this movie in his recent super anti-hero movie, Deadpool 2 (1996). This when I saw the dance including water dousing dance routine. And this also referenced al in The Simpsons and the Snoopy film It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984). The film also in an in-film inspiration when watched by those The Full Monty stripper boys

And on a final note, I’m dedicating this review to someone close to me. This person – who knows who they are – often confuses this film with that Kevin Bacon Footloose movie. A film also from the 1980s. However to reassure you,  this confusion really is a case of dancing close to the truth. As when casting of this film, one of the Alex hopefuls was Kyra Sedgwick, ie Mrs Kevin Bacon. That’s just in-case you are ever grilled about six degrees of separation for this film’s possible cast…

Weeper Rating: 😦 😦  😦  😦 😦  😦 /10/10

Handsqueeze Rating:   🙂 🙂  🙂 🙂  🙂  /10

Hulk Rating: ‎   mrgreen mrgreen ‎/10

Bonus Trailer: yes (this has strobe lighting)

Flashdance – Trailer 1983, Video Detective

Cinema Shame No 7, August 2018

This film review was added as my Cinema Shame post for August. Other film reviews here with this cast include Cynthia Rhodes in Dirty Dancing and Fantasy Island. Kyle T Heffner starred in When Harry Met Sally.  Jennifer Beals had a role in Frasier,

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8 thoughts on “FILMS… Flashdance (1983)

  1. Hi Gill – loved this movie as a teen, need to see it again…forgot how devastatingly handsome Michael Nouri was!

    Jennifer Beales developed into a gorgeous woman and wonderful actress…she was marvelous in the Showtime lesbian-themed series The L Word, which I highly recommend.

    I remember there was quite a controversy that Miss Beales did not do all her own dancing in this film…she had a double in that unforgettable “What a Feeling” sequence…

    Liked by 1 person

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