“When you give up your dream, you die.”
Jennifer Beals and Michael Nouri star in Flashdance, a misguided, but highly entertaining piece of nostalgia from director Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction).
A lot has happened since its 1983 release. Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone that grew up in or around the eighties has escaped the iconic image of Beals in her cutoff gray sweatshirt, long legs bared for the world to see. Harder to imagine is people exist who could have made it their whole lives without hearing at least one song from the amazing (for the times) soundtrack.
Anyone remotely familiar with eighties music will recognize at least two or three songs with ease. But Flashdance often glosses over its story for powerhouse dance number-after-powerhouse dance number. This is unfortunate, as the film harbors one of the most compelling female leads in movie history, but it’s unlikely she’ll ever be known as such, because Lyne has misgivings about his film’s real strengths.
The script by Joe Eszterhas and Thomas Hedley, Jr., and the performances by Beals, Nouri, and a host of other forgotten character actors, has much to offer. Lyne, however, struggles with his direction. Does he want to make a clear-cut drama, or a sleazy dance-infused musical? He manages both. The end product, while fun and inspiring, suffers as it could have been so much more.
Alex Owen, a stunning Beals, is trying to make something of her life. Fresh from high school, she does so in the strangest ways – welding by day, exotic dancing (without the nudity) by night. When her boss catches her act late one night, he becomes smitten. How can someone so gorgeous and talented be confined to a hard labor job when there is a world that could fall for her so easily?
A relationship blossoms, which Beals and Nouri sell with believable chemistry. But Alex isn’t content to get by on her newfound love and working two jobs. She’s always wanted to study at the prestigious Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance; however, given her blue-collar upbringing and questionable nighttime job, she doesn’t believe she’s good enough. Poignant moments abound in this main relationship and among several of the secondary characters. If only the soundtrack had let the rest of the film breathe a little, Flashdance could be an American, instead of cult, classic.
More care could have been taken with the 1.85:1 presentation. You won’t have to look far to see specs of dirt and grime on the print. Day scenes have a foggy, filthy haze that, while somewhat intentional, could have stood a re-master. The transfer, ironically, looks its best when the film is at its worst – during endless musical interludes.
English 5.1 and 2.0 tracks are joined with a French 2.0 track that all do the film a certain brand of justice. That’s not to say they’re without defect. Some of the clarity is slightly muffled and soft, but the power and volume is still there. As bittersweet as it is to have the film overpowered by its own musical choices, the songs do still sound good. “Flashdance — What a Feeling” even won an Oscar.
The “I Love the ’80s” releases come with musical selections. This particular release includes the following songs: “Lips Like Sugar” (Echo and the Bunnymen), “Chains of Love” (Erasure), “Need You Tonight” (INXS), and “Take on Me” (a-ha). No film-related content, however.
Flashdance is a film about being motivated beyond money or ambition. It’s about having a passion for something and pursuing it at all costs – for no other reason than love of living. It’s hard to hate these inspirational formulas when they’re done right. Flashdance almost is. But it’ll always be hard taking it seriously when you’re caught up wondering what might have been. A drab (by DVD standards) video presentation and ho-hum audio combine with very little extras to draw back further from the release. But perhaps it’s understated praise of the film that, in spite of it all, Flashdance is still worth your time.