As a movie Flashdance is pure fluff; 90 minutes of music videos tied together by a small plot about a love affair between a welder and her boss as well as her ambition to become a professional dancer. As a phenomenon and legacy Flashdance is a whole other story. Flashdance connected movies to the music videos on MTV, it’s filled with montages and dance sequences set to its top-selling soundtrack. Flashdance clearly inspired movies like Rocky IV, Footloose and a whole lot of dance movies we see today.
Alex, played by a young Jennifer Beals, is a welder by day and exotic dancer by night in a bar. Her dream is to become a professional dancer but she doesn’t have the courage to audition for a dance school. She lives in an abandoned warehouse with her dog Grunt who seems to be fully potty trained as she is hardly home to take care of him. Her life takes a turn for the better when her boss fancies her and the feeling is mutual. Will he be her support and give her the courage to perform?
Flashdance was never a movie that appealed to me because of the great script or the strong acting. Beals, despite her beauty, gives a flat performance and is unconvincing when the script requires her to deliver lengthy deep monologues about seeing the music and such. The only time she actually generates a genuine laugh is when she states she fucked the brains out of her boss to his ex-wife. The strength of Flashdance is the music. Where musicals just insert musical numbers to tell the story through the power of song, Flashdance, much like Rocky IV, uses pop songs and montages to advance the story when needed, which is every five minutes or so.
So there are montages of Alex and her co-workers at the bar performing dance routines, training montages focusing a lot on Alex’s butt, a break dance performance when Alex and a co-worker are walking home, a figure skating routine and of course the final audition. When this movie’s done you’ll be humming Flashdance for days. Not really surprising since it’s featured twice in the movie, and an instrumental version of it is in several scenes as background music.
Flashdance with its fashion (leg warmers), jokes (about Polacks) and music (Irene Cara) is as 80s as it comes and that’s what makes it so damn great. It’s completely without any pretention and doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is: a simple love story wrapped around in music videos. It’s easy to see why critics hated it, it’s a complete mystery why they didn’t actually love it.