She’s in the mood for dancing, romancing, she’s giving it all…
An 18-year-old girl is a welder by day and an exotic dancer by night in a drama about dancing, friendships, love and fulfilling your dreams.
Flashdance – Trailer, Paramount Movies and photos © Paramount Movies
This film inspired everyone who’s anyone from Ryan Reynolds to a doll manufacturer, and this is possibly one of the most well-known dance films of the 1980s. The title song is sung and written by Irene Cara in her post-Fame (1980) limelight. This was in her Oscar Winning song called Flashdance: What a Feeling.
Flashdance (1983) is 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). It’s a must-see three times Oscar-nominated film of the 1980s, that for some reason I didn’t see till recently.
In a weird reversal of normal events, I only recognised one of the cast but had heard most of the film’s soundtrack before. Apart from the more obvious titular track, I didn’t even realise these were included in this movie.
As 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 steelyard. 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 workmates include a 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. She spends some of her day visiting an old friend, her mentor and one-time ballet dancer, the elderly Hanna Long (Lilia Skala). However after she looks into applying to this Pittsburgh dance 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. as seen in 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. It 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 appear 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 wasn’t included. This as the song’s lyrics had been changed to be more suitable for this movie than the previously inspired horror theme. Maniac was not sung by Hall and Oates (as this musically challenged writer thought) but by Michael Sembello.
The dancing often appears in 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 musical interludes 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 seems that on numerous occasions Beals had dance doubles for her scenes. These include the (bizarrely) uncredited Marine Jahan, a dancer and also a gymnast Sharon Shapiro. These scenes also include break dancing – a 1980s fad – with Crazy Legs dancing for this actress. 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 storylines and montages before they happened. This is probably due to the number of films it’s inspired from Footloose (1984) to Top Gun (1986). So then when you think of the release dates this film is more inspiring 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 about 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 than the Travolta sequel in so many ways!
I did love returning to the eighties in this film not only for its music but for me also for recalling the fashion
mistakes of the decade. Beals’ off the shoulder scooped neck sweatshirt is now the stuff of legends. This top caused 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. It seems by a search for this hairstyle 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 hair-rollers 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). Flashdance was also the first of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson’s 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. As Demi Moore could have been in the cast as Alex. Moore appeared in a wee role as Michael Caine’s daughter in Blame it on Rio (1984) the following year. Also considered for this role were Bo Derek, Daryl Hannah, Heather Locklear, Tatum O’Neal, Helen Hunt, Bridget Fonda, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michelle Pfeiffer.
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.
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. 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 to lie on a bed with three or four of the possible candidates for Alex including Beals.
On release, the story’s casting also led to much controversy about Nouri being 36 years old during filming. This makes 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. His age also I feel was supported by the script, 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 was when I saw the dance including the water-dousing dance routine. This film was also referenced in The Simpsons and the Snoopy film Its Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984). The film is also an in-film inspiration when watched by those The Full Monty stripper boys.
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. When casting for this film, one of Alex hopefuls was Kyra Sedgwick, ie Mrs Kevin Bacon. That’s just in case you are ever grilled about the six degrees of separation for this film’s possible cast…
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
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.