A Review of Flashdance

Normally I would try to devote at least some time to analyzing the plot of a film, but that’s downright impossible with this movie. There is no plot, but rather, a collection of music video sequences strung together by featuring a common character, who just happens to be one of the blandest creations ever in cinema.

Nothing about Flashdance really works as art for more than two minutes at a time. Granted, some select sequences are actually quite good, but only from a technical standpoint. Director Adrian Lyne has done a lot better in terms of…well, everything. He’s certainly been a more erotic filmmaker (one of the few things Flashdance succeeds at is creating titillating dance sequences) and his others films do have plots.  I have no idea why this is the thing in his filmography that became such a cultural phenomenon in the eighties.

One big problems with the film (mostly because I had nothing else to really observe) is the sound. No, not the soundtrack – that’s perfectly fine if you like that type of music. I’m talking about the sound mixing. The dialogue is mixed so low as to be incomprehensible. I did not learn character names or motivations through anything the characters said. Jennifer Beals’ character is named Alexandra. I only figured that out when I saw her filling out a dance school application. It’s not a good sign a musical does not want you to hear it.

Of course, the problem with that may be I just didn’t care well enough about the character to want to learn her name. Why should anyone? She’s pretty much like every single wannabe artist you know – they work their day jobs but are convinced they’d be stars if only they could get someone to notice them. In the meantime, they may practice there art at night, but in a seedy dive where no one is really expected to advance. Maybe they’ll encounter the right person who can help them accomplish their goals, or maybe they are really talented enough to make it happen. But ultimately you know in five years most of them will still be, I dunno, welders or something.

Actually, I just described the plot of Flashdance inadvertently. I have to pause and ask, then, whether or not you think that sounds like something you would like to sit through. Actually, you probably already have. So, would you like to sit through it again for a few select erotic dance sequences that are a few clicks away on YouTube?

Yea, I understand that musicals must be like this. They try to explore pretty simplistic themes without really taking the time to explore them fully. It’s more about how those themes are explored. The problem with Flashdance is that it fails on its own terms. Fame managed to do exactly what Flashdance tries to do – discuss people from lower class backgrounds trying to achieve their dreams as artists. And it actually cared about the characters and there struggles. None of the problems with the character is Jennifer Beals’ fault. It’s merely that Lyne and writer Joe Eszterhas (he who wrote Showgirls and Basic Instinct) take the approach of being unable to wait to get their lead character back into hot workout clothes. There are no memorable sequences of her whatsoever of her motivation and of her desire – it’s all about the tight clothes and dancing at the nightclub.

And I have not even BEGUN to discuss how this film fails as a feminist tract, which the film thinks it is (see that trailer above which opens with “she works in a MAN’S world, etc.”). That’s supposed to be one of the films main points: Alex is her own women, and she don’t need no man telling her what’s what! Of course, she only succeeds once a man comes along and (minor spoiler) gives her the opportunity to audition at a prestigious ballet school. After she dates him for a while and sleeps with him. I’m taking a glib approach (it’s quite clear Alex and the wealthy Nick do love each other) but that doesn’t matter any more than the gift wrap matters. The film’s ultimate conclusion that it presents is “shake what God gave yea and hope a rich guy notices!” Again, a stronger character could have helped explain this, but there is no real character present.

Flashdance could have been some sort of classic schlockfest (like Showgirls, which actually had its tongue firmly in its cheek) but the film never builds up to that outside of a few select dance sequences – the same sequences that made the film popular, I suspect. Yea, the soundtrack is alright, and as a “musicvideoal,” the songs compliment the action well. The problem is there is no real character and certainly not enough material to sustain the action.

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