Flashdance is probably one of the most enduring films from the 80s, both for its uplifting, if entirely implausible, story and for its incredible visual style. Of course, its soundtrack is also indelibly stamped on the psyches of many people—particularly women—of a certain age. Flashdance was a modern fairy tale for the burgeoning MTV generation.
In fact, director Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful) essentially made an extended music video, with the film’s highly stylized look, sharp editing and hit-heavy soundtrack. Whether that’s a good thing or not is open to debate, but the film’s influence on subsequent music videos and on pop culture at large cannot be overestimated. Just think of all the dance films aimed at the teen audience over the past several years for proof of the impact of Flashdance.
All that said, on recent viewing of Flashdance: I Love the 80’s Edition I find myself wondering what all the fuss was about. Don’t get me wrong, I was 11-years-old when Flashdance came out, and from the moment I hear the opening strains of Irene Cara’s Oscar-winning theme song, I am instantly transported to a place where hope is in the heartbeat of a song and all your dreams are possible. But upon rewatching, the film itself seems so hollow.
The story is standard young-girl-coming-of-age, of course. Alex (Jennifer Beals) longs to be accepted into a prestigious dance school despite her lack of classical training. To make ends meet, she works as an arc welder in a steel factory by day, and performs as an erotic dancer by night. She’s fiercely independent, but she dates her boss and uses her sensuality to justify her stubborn streak. Sure, she dances at a seedy club with other desperate women, but she doesn’t strip—not completely anyway, so she maintains some semblance of her morality.
Alex must learn to let love in, without compromising her independence, in order to achieve her dreams. The fact that when she finally gets into the dance school auditions, it’s because her boss/beau has used his clout to pull some strings, is apparently irrelevant because what you’re supposed remember is the music and Beals’ body. And luckily, for the most part, that is what sticks with you. It’s not Michael Nouri as Nick, it’s not Alex’s interaction with her fellow dancers or her best friend’s ice skating hopes, and, thankfully, it’s not the abysmal dialogue (Nick: “You’re Alex…” Alex: “I know.”).
Flashdance endures not because of what it has, but of what it represents: dreams, determination, hope and passions. That’s all that is needed for it to continue to spark inspiration. As recently as 2007, it got a Special Collector’s Edition DVD release, and while it’s unclear what bonus features that may have included, the I Love the 80’s edition has absolutely none, unless, of course, you count the inserted CD. It is the same CD packaged with all of Paramount’s I Love the 80’s series: a four track disc of hits by a-ha, Echo & the Bunnymen, INXS and Erasure, none of which are related to Flashdance. It’s a poor substitute for features, especially when many of the people buying this DVD already own those songs.
Flashdance is always going to be a feel-good movie, mostly because of its stellar soundtrack, but Flashdance: I Love the 80’s Edition isn’t really the release that will leave Flashdance fans feeling good.