I was fifteen when this movie was first out and popular. I heard the soundtrack, of course, and loved it to pieces... but I had never been able to watch the movie because it was rated R.
I had grown up having it be, in an odd sort of way, both a part of my life and at the same time *not* a part of my life. I was familiar with its music, images, and even its basic plot outline, but had never seen the movie.
And as an adult, I felt extremely dubious about checking it out. Over the years, I had heard that people either loved it to pieces or hated it. I've heard critics both call it uplifting and fun while others called it nothing more than a string of glittering little music videos strung together on an extremely thin strand of plot (a creation device for a LOT of MTV-era movies such as "Top Gun", "Footloose" and "Purple Rain").
To add to my confusion about whether or not I should give it a try, I had had the same experience with "Saturday Night Fever": I grew up loving the soundtrack to pieces but having never seen the movie... and when I finally did I felt utter disappointment at first, discovering the film to be far darker than expected. Oh sure, I later liked "Fever" okay (actually, I should use the term "appreciated") but still preferred the gorgeous soundtrack to the actual film that was the basis for its existance.
Would I have the same experience with "Flashdance"?
Tonight, I finally decided to, as one character in the film puts it, "hold my breath and take the plunge".
As it turns out, I found it to be a surprisingly charming, entertaining and uplifting film. I was fearing it to be something raunchy, but at it turns out it has a very special, starry-eyed sweet innocence that is difficult to define.
The performance of the equally starry-eyed and innocent Jennifer Beals helps, of course. She brings a wide-eyed sparkle and hopefulness to her role, plus a determination to keep her life on the right track precisely as she feels it ought to go without any major morality screwups, and this adds a wonderful flavour of hope and childlike wonder to her character Alex that just simply grows on you.
Now, it IS true that there are a few flaws here and there, and a couple of editing flaws as well. Plus, the other characters aren't really as developed as hers (but they are developed just enough to demonstrate to her personally the various dos and don'ts regarding attitudes to have while pursuing a dream, voices for her to observe and learn from representing both directions). But none of that matters because the film has a charm all its own. Looking at it today, I can easily see why so many out there loved it: its a beautiful and very encouraging little film. It has a heroine whom anybody could relate with and like; it has wonderful music in it; it has a delicate and lighthearted touch to it which, language and a couple of scenes aside (such as the film's most heartbreaking scene in which Alex saves a desperate friend from throwing life away in a strip joint (a sequence which only lasts about two minutes long--but it's sad and disturbing, not "Oooh, let's put this in to grab male members of the audience!"--which is most likely the only ingredient to earn the film its R rating)), is nevertheless still so pure and true that it could have come straight out of a '70s-made Walt Disney Productions movie (!!!); it's touching and moving... and, of course, it has dance sequences which are fun to watch.
In other words, it was a comforting and uplifting movie released during a time when people, youngsters with career goals in particular, needed one. And if anything, folks still need movies like that out today. It's a happy little film with a happy ending which isn't overdone or unconvincing, and precisely the sort of flick which should be perscribed to those suffering severe depression. Heaven knows that I myself certainly felt encouraged about my own career and life in particular after watching it!
It might not be for everybody, but if the above description I've written voices the sort of movie you personally enjoy then do yourself a big favour and give it a try. Chances are that if you are as naturally starry-eyed and hopeful as Alex is--and believe me, *I* certainly am--then you will easily relate to this delightful little fable.