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  Flashdance I'm In The Mood For Dancing
Year: 1983
Director: Adrian Lyne
Stars: Jennifer Beals, Michael Nouri, Lilia Skala, Sunny Johnson, Kyle T. Heffner, Lee Ving, Ron Karabatsos, Belinda Bauer, Malcolm Danare, Philip Bruns, Micole Mercurio, Lucy Lee Flippin, Don Brockett, Cynthia Rhodes, Durga McBroom, Stacey Pickren, Liz Sagal
Genre: Musical, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Eighteen-year-old Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) works as a welder by day and dances in a club by night, but what she really wants to do is apply to the Pittsburgh school of ballet. However, she doesn't have the nerve, despite the encouragement of her elderly friend Hannah (Lilia Skala) who was a dancer herself in her younger days. One night, Alex's boss, Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), visits the club where she performs and is very impressed; the next day he tries to ask her out but she doesn't think a romantic relationship with her boss would be appropriate. He is persistent, though, and soon Alex will find her life is changing for the better if only she has the courage to embrace it...

A mega-hit in 1983, Flashdance was most commonly criticised for being a selection of music videos strung together with the flimsiest of plotlines, and there's no small amount of truth in that. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it was one of those films that people went to see because they liked the title song, performed by Irene Cara and also a mega-hit, in the charts - the video for that was basically a four minute version of the film handily condensed. It was also one of those eighties musicals ushered in by Saturday Night Fever that didn't feature the cast singing, but instead dancing to the records on the soundtrack.

Not that Beals did much dancing, as it was revealed that those sequences were staged with a body double doing the energetic stuff: you may get suspicious when you never get a good look at Alex's face when she prances about, sure there's the odd closeup of Beals' head looking animated, but mostly she's in silhouette when a song starts up. Giorgio Moroder's score includes a few hits of the day, not only the theme song, such as "Maniac" by Michael Sembello, "Gloria" by Laura Brannigan (which I thought was the pinnacle of brilliance when I was a kid) and, erm, "I Love Rock and Roll" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts for the working out scene (what was wrong with Olivia Newton John?).

The storyline is pretty much a collection of clich├ęs designed to make Alex look like an attractive, strong-willed, independent woman. She may have the odd crisis of confidence, but it never hurts for the heroine to show her vulnerable side once in a while, after all, and this is what passes for character development in Flashdance. Her friends all have dreams just as she does, but they don't have what it takes to let them blossom: cook Richie (Kyle T. Heffner) wants to be a stand up comedian in Los Angeles, but they must have heard his act because he doesn't take long to return from an excursion there, and Jeanie (Sunny Johnson, who tragically died soon after making this film) wants to be an ice skater but ends up a stripper.

Alex, of course, is made of sterner stuff. The script was written by Tom Hedley and a certain Joe Eszterhas, before he grew bitter and all his scripts had sex obsessed, clothes-removing women in them, and the club where the heroine works is a nice club where the dancers may take a few garments off, but they don't take them all off, which will have you wondering why all those men attend when there's a strip club down the street. Alex is filmed to be adorably unselfconscious, but all those shots of her laughing and at ease with herself look irksomely contrived - she even whips her bra out from under her jumper while chatting. And the big audition at the end is absurdly over the top, complete with diving, breakdancing and the panel tapping their feet and blowing their noses in time with Ms Cara's stylings. Still, it's a prime slice of eighties' cheese, and as director Adrian Lyne said, there's room for a bit of fluff in the world. If only it didn't come across as so calculated.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Adrian Lyne  (1941 - )

Slick, commercial British director whose background in advertising always guarantees a glossy sheen to his films. Made his debut in 1980 with Foxes before scoring big hits with such films as Flashdance, 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal, all of which were controversial at the time but now seem distinctly ordinary. More interesting are Lyne's less obviously commercial projects - the frightening, hallucinatory Jacob's Ladder, a sensitive adaptation of Lolita, and the relationship drama Unfaithful.

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