Friday, December 10, 2010

Burlesque

Directed By: Steve Antin

Cast: Christina Aguilera, Cher, Cam Gigandet, Stanley Tucci

Rating: 5/10

It is rare that a pop singer will rise from the stage to shine on the silver screen. Arguably the most dazzling of these popstars/actresses has been Cher, who lit up the screen in such gems as Witness, Moonstruck and The Witches of Eastwick. She even went on to win an Oscar for her rich performance in Moonstruck. Past pop sirens have tried and failed to replicate Cher’s success; Britney (Crossroads), Mariah Carey (Glitter, Precious), Miley Cyrus (The Last Song) and now it’s Christina Aguilera’s turn. We know she’s got the pipes but does she have the chops for acting?

Burlesque is an easy film to slag. It’s a bit too easy a target and from the guffaws of the audience it’s easy to imagine we have another Glitter on our hands. It isn’t quite a disaster of those proportions and is possibly a future guilty pleasure for a lot of people due to some fun set pieces, truly remarkable costumes and just the general camp aesthetic of it all.

Ali (Xtina) is a small-town waitress with no family, a mean boss and a depressing job. So one day she closes the restaurant, sings on the table-tops, then heads off on a bus to L.A. She is down on her luck, wide-eyed, naive and penniless. That is until she encounters The Burlesque Lounge, a crumbling burlesque theatre with no money but lots of heart. Ali is smitten and is determined to earn her place on their stage. She blags her way into a waitressing job and befriends the kindly barman Jack (Twilight’s Cam Gigandet), whilst both infuriating and charming Cher’s fading star Tess along the way.

Jack is happily engaged to Natalie, played by Glee’s resident naughty catholic schoolgirl, Dianna Agron, but things are rocky, a fact which isn’t helped by Ali sleeping on their couch while Natalie is away. It isn’t long before Jack and Ali’s friendship deepens but you’d be surprised how long the writers tease the audience before giving them some of the most bizarre foreplay ever committed to celluloid.

Needless to say, Ali is soon revealed to be the club’s greatest asset and might just save the joint before the bank forces them to sell to slimy investor, and Ali’s potential love interest, Marcus (Eric Dane). But can she come out of her shell enough to get the crowds in? Can she defeat resident bitch, Kristen Bell? And can she realise before it’s too late that Marcus is a sleazy capitalist who is only interested in her for her moneymaking potential?

Burlesque is a truly ridiculous affair. All dazzle, no edge but nonetheless a guilty pleasure of sorts. The script was originally written by Juno’s Diablo Cody who knows a thing or two about burlesque given her background as an exotic dancer. However, it is clear the script has been tinkered with beyond all recognition. I found myself longing to feel Cody’s presence in the film, despite my usual nonchalance about her work, but this feels like her territory and her draft was probably a lot edgier than this.

If you have any tolerance for this kind of nonsense and you are expecting the worst then you might buy into the stylistic opulence it serves up. The costumes are glorious, the Rob Marshall-lite performances are great fun and of course Christina’s vocals are incredible. Cher is unfortunately less successful musically. She still has the voice but her diction is somewhat garbled due to her stiff, botoxed face. The role of Tess is great fun for her I’m sure but the film is just so saccharine that she doesn’t get a chance to get down and dirty with the role. Christina’s acting is nothing to get excited about unfortunately. She isn’t terrible, but the character of Ali is just so ridiculously doe-eyed that it’s impossible to take her seriously.

Be prepared for a silly plot, some hammy performances, a lot of skin (but no bare breasts, don’t get too excited) and visual candy. If you know what you’re in for you might just enjoy this mess of glitter and tassles! Oh and it earns a whole extra star for Stanley Tucci’s marvellous presence!

 - Charlene Lydon


1 comment:

  1. There was an episode of Wife Swap USA, a while ago, where one of the wives featured was a burlesque dancer. Of course, she was swapped with an ultra-conservative wife. What struck me most was that the Burlesque wife was passionate about that form of expression, even though her performances brought in just a few quid each week.

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