By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Dancing is her passion.
Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) is a young lady of 19 who works as a welder during the day, but moonlights as an exotic dancer by night. She dreams of one day joining the dance institute and train to work in the professional ballet, but when she goes to their admissions desk they demand that she show some proof of prior training, which she doesn’t have and this is enough to intimidate her from applying at all. She eventually starts up a relationship with Nick (Michael Nouri) who is the owner of the factory where she works. He uses his money and influence to pull-some-strings at the dance conservatory so that she’ll be able to get an audition, but she resents his help and threatens to not only pull out of their relationship because of it, but her audition as well.
The film is loosely based on the real-life story of Maureen Marder and the plot is relatable to anyone who dreams of one day rising above their humble beginnings, which is what makes the film interesting. Beals does well in the title role and has a very appealing face, but I was surprised how little dancing there actually was. Out of the whole runtime there are only three dance routines that the Beal character does, which was a shame as the routines are well staged, have a lot of energy and creativity and the most unique part about the film while its contrived romantic angle is a complete bore.
The Alex character has issues as well as she comes off as too much of a mish-mash of different extremes making her more like a caricature than a real person. I realize human beings can be a bag of contradictions, but this character takes it too far. The biggest one is when she goes every week to confession even though she doesn’t behave at all like she is a religious person in any other way. I would think a devoutly Catholic individual wouldn’t feel as relaxed about getting on stage and gyrating her body let alone stripping off her clothes the minute she brings her new boyfriend back to her place, going to bed with him on their first date and even aggressively flirting with him at a restaurant. In either case the confession scene was unnecessary because all it does is have the character verbally explain what the viewer has already been able to pick-up on visually.
The character is also highly volatile in ways that could easily get her pegged as being a borderline psycho these days. First she throws a rock through her boyfriend’s window when she thinks he is seeing another woman, then she jumps out of a moving car in the middle of a tunnel that could’ve caused a major traffic accident and then tops it all off by rushing onstage to drag her friend Jeanie (Sunny Johnson) off at a strip club and then callously throwing the dollars that Jeanie had earned into a puddle of water all because she consider herself to be a ‘good friend’, which brings up another point; why does this character consider stripping to be so ‘sleazy’ while being an exotic dancer is ‘respectable’? Granted she doesn’t take her clothes off as an exotic dancer, but the outfits she wears are quite revealing and the dance numbers are so sexually tinged that in my opinion there wasn’t that much of a difference.
I was also surprised how the male characters at her factory job seemed to treat her as being ‘just-one-of-the-guys’ as this was a highly attractive single woman making me believe that a lot of the guys would be hitting on her besides just the owner. I would also expect that she would be sexually harassed at the work place by some of them since she spends her evenings playing into their fantasies with her sexy dancing and the fact that the film fails to tackle this subject even briefly makes it poorly thought-out.
Overall though I found it to be an enjoyable watch and I think this was mainly due to Adrian Lyne’s direction and his use of lighting that made each shot seem like a visual design and his ability to photograph the grimy, steel mill setting in a way that made it seem artsy and evocative as well as the film’s rousing dance number at the end that despite its cheesy nature is still inspiring and fun.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: April 15, 1983
Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes
Director: Adrian Lyne
Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube