Monday, November 15, 2010

Film Review: HEAVENLY BODIES (1984, Lawrence Dane)

Stars: 3.75 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Cynthia Dale (MOONSTRUCK, MY BLOODY VALENTINE), Richard Rebiere (ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING, VISITING HOURS), Walter George Alton (Puma-man in PUMAMAN), Stuart Stone (BABAR, DONNIE DARKO). Music by The Tubes, Sparks, Bonnie Pointer, Dwight Twilley, Joe La Mont (who composed the Martian club music for TOTAL RECALL), and the Boys Brigade. Directed by Lawrence Dane (character actor from OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, SCANNERS, BRIDE OF CHUCKY). Written by Dane and Ron Base (JESUIT JOE, WHITE LIGHT).
Tag-line: "She's reaching for the top, with everything she's got."
Best one-liner: "Good-bye love handles!"

How does one categorize HEAVENLY BODIES? Is it firm thigh-sploitation co-produced by Playboy? Is it a work of Canadian social realism? Is it a rip-off of FLASHDANCE? Is it a Golan-Globus-style underdog story? Or is it an instructional video designed so that you, too, may have a heavenly body, whether you like it or not! Well, it gives me pleasure to report that HEAVENLY BODIES is, in fact, all of these things.

First and foremost, it's the tale of three gutsy young women who were low on cash and high on enthusiasm. They founded their own aerobics studio in a converted warehouse space and inspired the masses to escape the drudgery of their own sepia-toned existences by dancercising their way to a better life, like so:

Becoming something of a local celebrity, Samantha Blair (Cynthia Dale) is a hard-strivin' single mom and the leader of the outfit.

Perhaps her jubilant face/crotch-thrusting combo was the inspiration for Jamie Lee Curtis' in PERFECT?

She navigates a burgeoning romance with an aerobics-luvin' football player who's all about commitment and adoption.

Things are going pretty well, and Samantha even lands herself a local TV gig, but then the ALL ABOUT EVE claws come out, and she finds herself drawing the ire of a bitchy competitor (Laura Henry) and her sleazy manager played by poor man's Rob Lowe and PUMAMAN star, Walter George Alton.

A corporate takeover and an eviction notice later, Samantha must face off against her nemeses and win back her lease through the contrivance of a catty 'dance till you drop' aerobics marathon, much to the delight of audiences everywhere.

"I have a degree in physical fitness- I was first in my class!"

"How does it feel being an asshole?"

In short, it's the kind of story that's so intense, so specific, so emotional, so searing, that the maker poured his entire creative heart and soul into it. It's a story that only one person on Earth could tell. It's the lone writer/director credit for:

Lawrence Dane, Canadian character actor and part-time aerobics/romance/underdog story enthusiast. And how does he spin his tale? With remarkable economy, kitchen sink realism, and a genuine sense of fun. Say what you will about this film, but it's got a certain joie de vivre- you can tell that everyone involved is having one hell of a time. Combined with a low budget sincerity (which at times reminded me of the superior Canadian tax shelter film, OUTRAGEOUS), it makes for an ultimately likable picture.

It must also be mentioned, as in many films of this type, the same few songs are repeated throughout, again and again and again. This holds especially true in a film whose denouement involves a sweaty, nine-hour dance contest.

"Keep on workin'/Keep on workin'/Keep on workin'/Keep on workin'"

"Breakin' out of prison/Breakin' out of prison/Keep on workin' you can never stop"

"Work you body/Work your body/Work your body/Work your body"

"Out of control/out of control/out of control/out of control"

Simply poetry. Somehow- let's say nearly four stars.

-Sean Gill


MPK said...

this looks amazing. Makes me want to go out and buy a new pair of shiny colorful leotards right now!

Unknown said...

Now, this is a blast from the past. Ah, Cynthia Dale... she would go on to become quite the darling of Canadian TV, starring in the Canuck answer to LA LAW, STREET LEGAL. Hell, she was even in MY BLOODY VALENTINE and did an ep. or two of one of my all-time fave Canadian cop dramas NIGHT HEAT. But this movie really captures the aerobics craze that took hold during the early to mid-1980s. Remember 20 MINUTE WORKOUT?

Sean Gill said...


Definitely lives up to the absurd VHS cover art. I never get tired of watching these kinds of movies- it's probably some sort of character flaw.


Cynthia Dale is very likable- I'm not familiar with her body of work outside this and MY BLOODY VALENTINE, but good to know she got some good exposure. I sadly wasn't aware of 20 MINUTE WORKOUT until just now- but some frenzied youtubing has changed this in a hurry.

Basically anything aerobicizing or breakdance-related is gold to me, and certainly in more of a Proustian than in a mocking nature. I've recently acquired Peter Medak's (THE CHANGELING, THE RULING CLASS) BREAKIN' THROUGH on VHS, which stars Ben Vereen and promises to be absolutely nuts.

Jerky LeBoeuf said...

Thanks! Very helpful, believe it or not.

Sean Gill said...


Glad to be of service.