At first, in Flashdance, there is nothing but a slow glowing dream. Then, later, there is still pretty much nothing but a slow glowing dream. And also someone eating some sexy lobster while wearing nothing but a formal bib? All of this makes perfect sense in a film about whatever it turns out Flashdance is about, which I think is leg warmers?
Ah Flashdance! What a feeling! Bein’s believing! Now I’m dancing for my life, as the title track goes. But be warned if you choose to watch Flashdance: our heroine is not dancing for her life in a cool Stephen King-style they’ll kill you if you stop dancing way, but more of in a wet-on-stage in front of blue collar dudes playing poker way.
It is hard to predict how you’ll feel about this, so you should probably watch Flashdance and find out.
If you don’t know from Flashdance, it was (and is) a film from 1983, directed by famous director of sexy-lobster films Adrian Lyne. It was also produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, in their first of many many many collaborations, which collectively made the 1980s so very Tom Cruisey, explodey, and buxom. Heady times, to be sure. This one is the touching story of Alex, a Pittsburgh-based welder and stripper-adjacent dancer (Jennifer Beals) who has trouble keeping her shoulders inside of clothing. While many suggest Flashdance tells the tale of her slow glowing dream of becoming an unqualified ballet dancer, that is incorrect.
It is the thrilling story of how many times a single bicycle can be left outside, unlocked, in Pittsburgh without being stolen.
Thus: Flashdance is rife with tension. And the hottest in ’80s welder fashion. It is also largely hysterical.
In this bicycle-themed adventure, vague things happen. Some of them appear to make sense. Others, not so much. Alex — a woman who sometimes welds professionally under bare red light bulbs or while wearing a green plastic face shield — has never taken a single ballet class, despite dreaming of being a ballet dancer. Her dream glows slow, right? Instead, she closes her eyes and sees the music. And then she dances at Mawby’s Bar, the unlikeliest drinking establishment this side of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
Imagine, if you will, a combination dive bar / greasy spoon / avante-garde dance theater. Its clientele, primarily the kinds of dudes you’d expect to whistle admiringly at your posterior, go to Mawby’s to drink beer and to either ignore or intently watch dance performances of vastly fluctuating sensuality. It’s like if you staged Cabaret in a Dairy Queen and that was your whole business model. In Mawby’s, if what’s happening on stage is eating-lobster sexy, the mugs there play cards and drink Stroh’s and ignore you. If what’s happening involves a women wearing some kind of elephant cocoon while thrashing around under a strobe light in a some kind of Nagel-themed nightmare, then sure: everyone’s rapt.
This, despite the fact that there’s a perfectly serviceable strip club down the street — if titillation is what you’re after? Clearly not, since the owner and bouncer of that strip club spend most of their time at Mawby’s, where they harass the dancers and waitstaff and enjoy Nagel-themed nightmares.
If you’re confused, don’t worry: the ’80s are over. No one is going to make you explain how a film about Alex and her slow glowing dream of skipping all entry-level and intermediate ballet instruction in favor of just being admitted directly to the Conservatory makes any sense. It doesn’t. It can’t. It’s not supposed to, because this isn’t a film about Alex. It’s a film about her bike, and why no one will steal it even if she leaves it outside of Mawby’s all night without even telling it to stay, like a naughty puppy. It is a film that David Cronenberg was asked to direct, but who felt it wasn’t quite in line with his sensibilities.
And even if Flashdance is a film about Alex, it’s a film in which she’s the object, not the subject. We aren’t meant to hope Alex succeeds in her stupid stupid slow glowing dream, because she never really tries to achieve it. After endless bad jokes and questionable crotch shots, Alex finally applies to join the Conversatory — for which, remember, she holds ZERO qualifications — and then is surprised to find that her boss/boyfriend (Michael Nouri) pulled strings to get her through to the audition stage.
More than that, she’s furious! How dare he help her get the thing she clearly doesn’t deserve? She needs to fail to get it on her own, so we can look forward to Flashdance 2.
And I suppose I could tell you about the romance in Flashdance, in which her creepy boss appreciates her wet-dancing and sexy-lobstering and the fact that she owns a magic un-stealable bicycle. Or I could tell you about Alex’s friend, who wants to be an ice dancer, and that lady’s boyfriend, who is an aspiring stand-up comic. Their slow glowing dreams are just as implausible as Alex’s — but at least they try. The ice dancer has been training for years. The comic has bothered to write out cue cards containing six of the oldest, worst jokes I’ve ever heard.
Do they succeed? Who cares. I’m just here to see if the bike makes it. That is my slow glowing dream.
So yeah. Watch Flashdance for the sexy lobster eating and near-100% body double performed dancing. Appreciate that one surprisingly cute scene where Alex stands in the middle of the road to direct traffic beside a cop. Try to decide which song is the very worst (hint: it’s Lady, Lady, Lady). And then, if you’re feeling some motivation, become a professional ballet dancer. All you need is a big sweatshirt, some leg warmers, and the 1980s.