(On Cable TV, March 2017) Sometimes, watching popular hits from decades past is enough to make you wonder what they were thinking back then. Some movies don’t age well, and for all of the box-office dollars that Flashdance accumulated in 1983, a lot of it just feels silly today. The premise itself seems like a jumble of words, as a welder-by-day and burlesque-dancer-by-night dreams of becoming a professional dancer. The only thing standing in the way of her dreams in a pre-YouTube era is an admission to a dance school. Much of the film is spent on the way from dream to reality, frequently interrupted by music videos. That last part isn’t much of an exaggeration: Director Adrian Lyne clearly aped then-new format of music videos in blatantly stopping the film for musical set pieces, hand-waving them as performance art in a burlesque club. It works up to a point, until we get exasperated that the simplistic story isn’t going anywhere. This focus on music videos is obvious from the wall-to-wall hit soundtracks—alas, it’s all early-eighties pop, which sounds terrible today. At least Jennifer Beals is very likable at the lead—she’s quite a bit better than the movie surrounding her. Flashdance is also notable for bringing together filmmakers who would then go on to have big careers, particularly producers Bruckheimer/Simpson and screenwriter Joe Ezharas. If you’re not watching from a historical perspective, the film is a dud—the story is linear, the interludes too frequent and the romance is bolted together out of narrative convenience. There are far better movies from 1983, and they have all aged much better than this one.
(On TV, December 2016) I probably shouldn’t have watched Fatal Attraction a few days before Unfaithful, because the comparison isn’t kind to this film (even despite them sharing the same director). In some ways, this gender-flipped story of adultery does uphold some old-fashioned morals of deception and revenge. Alas, it does so at length, never settling for a quick cut when a long sustained shot will do. Diane Lane is rather good as the married woman deciding to indulge in a bit of adultery, and the casting of the two male actors is amusing: Choosing a side of Olivier Martinez over a main course of Richard Gere is the kind of thing that underscores the wish fulfillment of Hollywood movies. There is, as is usual for erotic thrillers, a bit of heat in the initial couplings … although this quickly cools down once the erotic part is done and the thriller part begins. By the time the husband character semi-accidentally kills the adulterer, the plot has simultaneously started and ended at once: the rest of the movie is guilty thumb-twiddling until the end. It doesn’t make for a satisfying film—there’s little to offset the unintentional hilarity of some sequences. It’s also far too long for its thin plot, but so it goes. There may be a clash between Unfaithful’s aspirations as an infidelity drama, and the way it veers into a murder thriller in its third act—the finale kills the questions left by its first act, which itself is far too slow for a thriller. No matter what or why, Unfaithful doesn’t make much of a case for itself—it’s not that bad a choice if you really, really like either or all of the three leads, but it doesn’t quite cohere into something satisfying.