A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, despite its R rating, Midwest working-class setting, and sexy vibe, Flashdance is largely a fairy tale, a glamorous wish-fulfillment pop fantasy for teen girls on what being an adult is like. There's a brief visit to a graphic, downscale nudie bar (with bare breasts and buttocks on display), strong language (including "c--t" and "f--k"), and drinking and smoking. You might point out to your teens that working at a strip club is not as glamorous as it appears to be here.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In FLASHDANCE Jennifer Beals plays Alex, a parentless 18-year-old who yearns to be a dancer with the city's ballet company even though she has no formal training, just an intense adoration of music and dance and a mentoring friendship with a long-retired showgirl. Alex lives alone in a huge loft apartment and holds down two jobs. By day she's a welder in an ironworks. By night she's an exotic dancer in a bar/nightclub called Mawby's. One of the guys at Mawby's watching Alex is Nick (Michael Nouri), her daytime boss at the foundry who's handsome, young, wealthy, well-connected, and divorced. Most of the nonmusical interludes in Flashdance concern their love affair and Alex overcoming her fears to audition for a ballet troupe.
Is it any good?
Despite its R rating, Flashdance is largely a fairy tale. Through the glitz and glamour and a vision of Pittsburgh that's somehow both a smoke-filled steel town and the Emerald City of Oz, we can see a sly updating of the Cinderella tale, albeit with sex, Spandex, and lots of '80s pop-rock. Note that MTV was only a few years old when this movie came out; this was one of the first movies to successfully (and profitably) combine the visual razzmatazz of music videos with a plot. The movie's slender, go-for-it premise proves a sturdy construction for all the music/dance scenes and inventively edited montages of blast-furnace steam, sizzling nightlife, and willowy Pittsburgh welder/dancing girl/ballet diva reverie.
Mawby's seems akin to all those escapist Golden Age of Hollywood musicals of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, where Broadway chorus girls did impossible "stage" routines on ice, underwater, and on airplanes -- places only an energetic movie camera could go. Alex and a few other dancers, briefly clad, do elaborate, self-choreographed avant-garde routines that mostly bring only polite applause from the working stiffs at the bar. If parents are bothered by the benign treatment of an erotic girlie club as a nurturing environment, there's a contrast provided later in the film between the risqué but non-risky Mawby's and Zanzibar, a strip joint where the less-empowered and less-fortunate girls seem to end up, explicitly nude and degraded.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about this version of adulthood and pursuing your dreams vs. what to expect out in the real world. Why do people like "Cinderella" stories?
Why do you think many consider this film to be a campy classic?
How does this movie explore the role of women in traditionally male-dominated work environments such as steel mills?
- In theaters: March 28, 1983
- On DVD or streaming: September 18, 2007
- Cast: Jennifer Beals, Lilia Skala, Michael Nouri
- Director: Adrian Lyne
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Great Girl Role Models
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: nudity, sex and profanity
- Last updated: May 15, 2020
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