The Burlesque Lounge in Los Angeles is unable to pay the mortgage. Tess (Cher), a retired dancer and owner of the venue, struggles to keep the aging club alive, while sidestepping a threat from wealthy developer Marcus (Eric Dane) to buy the club. Ali (Christina Aguilera), a small-town girl from Iowa with natural showbiz talent, arrives with hope and energy but has to bustle her way just to wait at tables. But she's in the right environment for her, backed by newfound friends amongst the theater's crew, including barman Jack (Cam Gigandet) and costumier Sean (Stanley Tucci). But not Nikki (Kristen Bell), who feels threatened by Ali, especially when Ali steps up to the moment and shows off her magnificent voice (and dancing). With both Marcus and Jack seeking her heart, Ali has a chance to make her dreams come true - if only she could make the right choices.
Review by Louise Keller:
With shades of Chicago a tilt of the hat to Cabaret and others in the genre, Burlesque explodes on screen with raunchy, contemporary razzle dazzle and knock out performances by the sizzling hot Christina Aguilera and the legendary Cher. Both look amazing. Even before the credits, when Aguilera lets fly her big, ballsy voice with its rich, melodic colours and fluidity, she grabs our attention. Burlesque is all about mood. And we can taste it: the dim lighting, the smoky ambience, the laid back musos, the backstage rivalries and the skimpily clad showgirls who flaunt glamour and sex, dripping in pearls, feathers, sequins and fishnets.
Director Steve Antin has penned a predicable storyline about Ali (Christina Aguilera), a small town girl from Iowa with big dreams that match her big talent, the two men in her life and Tess the club owner (Cher), who is about to lose everything she values. But whatever the script may lack in originality, Antin gets the feel right and we are immediately swallowed up by the frenetic world of the nightclub, the performance and the lifestyle. As long as Antin stays in the Club, that is: the Club that boasts the best view on the Strip. Anything shot outside, the magic is lost.
Incredibly, it is Aguilera's first acting role and she counters her naturally provocative sexual persona with an appealing innocence. Convincing us she is hungry for success, Ali takes the initiative as a waitress and finds the right moment to show off her talents. Her songs are show stoppers, wonderfully choreographed, beautifully staged and shot and delivered with lightning strikes of passion. Cher may only have two numbers, but she makes them count - especially the second, a gutsy ballad called You Haven't Seen The Last of Me, which she delivers with meaning. She is equally effective in portraying the multi-layered, complex woman whose life is the Burlesque Club.
Ali (short for Alice) finds her wonderland as she shakes her shapely derriere and generous cleavage, showing us the stuff she is made of. Two handsome hunks are there for the choosing. Eric Dane is charming as Marcus, who drives a flash car, gifts sequined Louis Vuitton shoes and is so wealthy he buys airspace, while Cam Gigandet is Jack, the eyeliner-wearing barman from Kentucky with the absent fiancé who writes songs that are never ready to be heard. Stanley Tucci (in a role reminiscent to that in The Devil Wears Prada) is perfectly cast as Sean, Tess's gay confidante and former lover, who tells her the lies she needs to hear.
It's a little long, the story dips and there's no big emotional hit, but there is so much sparkle and heart to this showy show stopper, the sheer chutzpah will propel you on an upward high and lift your spirits to a higher plane - if you are a sucker for the genre.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although the story contains absolutely nothing new (there is a comforting familiarity to it, in fact) Burlesque has balls. It's brassy and bold and big (and loud) and the first two acts play like extended music clips with big budgets. There is hardly a shot that's on screen longer than 2 seconds, and there isn't a song and dance routine that isn't chopped up like diced garlic.
We meet Ali (Christina Aguilera) in the dump called Dwight's Café in provincial Iowa, from which she makes a hasty escape by coach to Los Angeles, where she is broke and lost and has nobody ... She answers ads but gets nothing, and when she walks into the Burlesque lounge, she isn't getting anything either. But plucky Ali picks up a tray and helps out at the busy nightclub in the hope of getting her foot in the door. Never mind that the story calls for the place to be broke, it's full of patrons. That aside, the story seems to get in the way of the real task of the filmmakers, which is to show off Cher and Aguilera. Separately and together (no duets, though).
The predictable jealousies, the courageous newcomer with talent and the wise, iconic mother hen all go through their paces - and rather well. The problem for me is in the way the story is (un)told.
The show routines seem to be exciting and sexy and well put together, but the editor won't let us see them in their full glory and context. Every scene is interrupted; if it's a show piece, it cuts to a dialogue scene. If it's a dialogue scene, it cuts to a show scene - or worse, to an unconnected song.
Given that all the key characters (leads and supports) are stereotypical and the story is predictable, the film has to rely on Cher and Aguilera - and both do terrific work to carry it. As Nikki says in jealous frustration in one scene, "I won't be upstaged by a girl from Iowa with mutant lungs..." and that's what they are. Mutant. Huge. Aguilera belts it out and she makes her own story work, while Cher delivers her big number (The Last of Me) with all the accumulated gusto of a career spent at the microphone - and not a little relevance.
It's full of tits and ass, a few engaging scenes and some laughs, but don't expect a big emotional jolt - which is what this film really needs to carry us out on a high. The story has stood the test of time ... it's just how you tell it.
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CAST: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Alan Cumming, Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Dianna Agron, David Walton, Terrence Jenkins, Chelsea Traille
PRODUCER: Donald De Line
DIRECTOR: Steve Antin
SCRIPT: Steve Antin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bojan Bazelli
EDITOR: Virginia Katz
MUSIC: Christoph Beck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Gary Steele
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 13, 2011
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.