Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day Forty-seven - Flashdance, or "Pittsburgh... where most dreams die a horrible death."

When you consider the wide catalog of film from the 80's, invariably there are a few that infected the cultural zeitgeist despite themselves, whether it was due to their music or imagery... action or eroticism.

Flashdance takes three of these and tries to make them its own.

There's no action, of course, unless you count the rather awkward parking lot assault and attempted rape by my very favorite Lee Ving (who played Mr.Body in Clue), but there's plenty of the other three. Mostly in the form of the occasional "classy" strip club sequences where nubile young women of the 80's, complete with power haircuts and toned bodies, dance down to their thongs and wet t-shirts (but never all the way, remember, Mawby's Bar is the "classy" one) to punk, rock, and soul.

Lead actress Jennifer Beals is one such exotic dancer, Alex, who has dreams of joining a renowned Pittsburgh dance troupe. Unfortunately, when confronted with the bevy of younger, well-trained applicants, she chickens out... and spends most of the movie trying to gather her courage.

It's not all indecision, though, as Alex isn't just a dancer... she's also an 18-year-old journeyman welder (must've started at 15 to get her union card so fast) who works for Michael Nouri's character, Nick Hurley, the rich owner of the construction company who came from the streets and made good for himself.

Sure, he's trolling Mawby's strip club with his foreman, but he's still a gentleman.

Anyway, the movie follows mostly Alex, but also the peripheral characters, her friends Richie and Jeanie, who have dreams of their own... to be a comedian and ice skater, respectively... but whose aspirations may not be in their cards.

To be honest, as annoying as Richie's laugh is, and it IS that grating, I rather enjoyed his small background arc as a fry cook trying to make it big. Sure, it doesn't turn out all that great, but he remains a standup guy pretty much throughout. There's a seed of doubt planted when he comes back for Halloween having failed and it's revealed that he never called Jeanie after he left, but I prefer to think he was making a clean break, not trying to hurt her, and her judgement is obviously impaired seeing as how her revenge is to hook up with the movie's resident scumbag, Johnny C. (Lee Ving).

Jeanie's fall from grace is a bit more problematic. She goes from accepting a large tip from said scumbag to dressing slutty and baring it all in his club between her appearances (which are brief since we're always on Alex). Hard to sympathize with her. True, she didn't make the Ice Capades, or Ice Dance America, or whatever it was, but she had a great support cushion in her family. Richie leaving for LA to try and follow HIS dream shouldn't have pushed her into the arms of Johnny C..

Ah well.

That's kind of the problem with this movie. Everyone is plot-forced into acting stupidly. Alex and her jealousy and pride, Nick and his meddling, the background characters and their general flakiness.

It doesn't help that there are weird music montages that don't seem to fit at all with the narrative... like the gym sequence and its unintentional comedy and the street dance sequence (that actually worked till we got to the traffic cop). It was like FAME performance art. I mean, at least with Fame, they were at a school of the arts.

Still, it's iconic. It's not great, by any stretch, but it's iconic. It could be argued that it defined what it was to be an independent woman for pretty much the rest of the decade... and that makes me a little sad.

I mean, it was great how Alex tried to keep her personal life separate from her day job and how she went (tentatively) after her dreams, but the message that she needed to be pushed... and had to have help, wasn't very empowering.

At least she picked herself back up and started again... I just wanted more than Nick picking up the phone and getting her the audition. It would've been more satisfying... for me and for Alex.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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