Starring: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Stanley Tucci, and Cam Gigandet.
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 119 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
This film was nominated for a Golden Globe award for best musical in 2010. It tells the story of a theatre (The Burlesque Lounge) that is fading. Its owner, Tess (Cher), once described as the Goddess of Pop, wants to keep the theatre’s performances going, but the past days of glory have gone. The theatre has lost its appeal and it faces bankruptcy. An unscrupulous real-estate speculator, Marcus Gerber (Eric Dane), who makes an offer he thinks Tess can’t refuse, is circling around. There seems little way out of the financial crisis that faces the theatre, which signals its end. Tess refuses to accept Marcus’s offer.
Ali Rose (Christina Aguilera) is a small-town girl, who is seeking happiness and success in the big city, which is a not-altogether unfamiliar theme in movies of this kind. Ali finds a job in the lounge as a waitress, and wants desperately to perform on stage. Assisted by a wily stage manager, Sean (Stanley Tucci), Ali eventually is allowed to perform. Her incredible voice rescues the theatre’s past glory, and The Burlesque Lounge once again receives public acclaim. But the theatre is still in financial debt, and Tess, on a suggestion of Ali, finds a solution. Tess sells the air rights to her theatre, so that speculators like Marcus can keep the surrounding views. The selling of air rights guarantees that a high rise building cannot be built on the theatre’s site, and the future of The Burlesque Lounge is thus assured.
Cher and Aguilera work well together and Cam Gigandet supplies a handsome romantic lead as the Lounge’s bartender, who takes Ali in and gives her room and board. Most of the songs go to Aguilera, and typical of burlesque, the performances bring out both the good and the bad in those who perform on stage. The choreography is bold and fast-paced, and the musical routines are glitzy, flashy, loud and attention-demanding.
The direction by Antin is old-fashioned, and the plot loses out almost completely to the lounge’s cheeky dancing and singing routines. Most of the musical numbers are suggestive. Partial nudity and frenetic dancing characterize nearly all of them. The scripting at times is poor, and solid drama doesn’t really unfold. The film had a chance of projecting burlesque dramatically as a distinctive form of female empowerment, but it steps back from developing any such conceptual themes. Burlesque is simply put there on the screen for anyone to enjoy, if one chooses to do so.
If it is the art of burlesque that attracts one, the film delivers it in high style. The film is also a welcome return to form for Cher who sings and moves in two numbers as if her actual age (64) is totally irrelevant.
This is a very expensively produced musical on a 55m dollar budget that doesn’t attempt at all to scale the heights of heavy emotional drama. For adults, it represents a fun night out. The fun is particularly contagious when the characters on stage really get moving, and Aguilera, in particular, starts to sing.
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