In the final number of this fantabulous film, Christina Aguilera asks the audience to "Get your ass up, show me how you burleque."
Because she doesn't know how. Obviously.
Burlesque was my Thanksgiving-holiday-movie of choice.
And even with fair warning from Feministing asking "Where's the Burlesque in Burlesque?" last week, I decided to witness all the inaccuracies for myself.
As it turns out, their initial complaint was more than valid.
When I think burlesque, I think Dita Von Teese; international performer extraordinaire. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I always understood her art to be the art of seduction. Which usually means the slow, strategic removal of clothing.
While the women of Burlesque danced in skimpy costumes inspired by the era of burlesque, they removed nothing. And they certainly didn't dip in any over-sized glasses of champagne.
Aguilera did pull out a set of feathers reminiscent of the real deal, but it was barely enough to compensate for the rest of the non-traditional numbers.
True burlesque resides in the realm of comedy, reactionary to stuffy Victorian mores. Sexual innuendo and cheap shots accompanied song, dance, and gratuitous nudity. These theater parodies re-shaped entertainment, jumping at the opportunity to make a play on words-- or anything else, for that matter.
Fast forward to this Burlesque, which is neither smart nor funny. "The best view of the sunset strip without any windows," is the tag line of the club and the cleverest double entendre throughout the film. Except for the doorman's ethnically insensitive "pole" joke.
But the movie never made any promises to be historically factual. In fact, we should have no expectations, except that Cher and Aguilera will share the stage-- they will sing, and we will be entertained.
Set in Los Angeles in the 21st century, the acts at this club mostly consisted of lip-synching and modern-ish dancing. Until Ali (Aguilera) showed up with a show-stopping song in the midst of a stopped show; the climax of the movie and it's titillating trailers.
As Goddessjaz over at Feministing points out, Burlesque exists somewhere in theatrical purgatory-- it's certainly not Chicago, but it's not quite Showgirls. Actually, it's more like a West Coast Coyote Ugly whose drama exists solely to string each number together in a semi-coherent musical.
Christina Aguilera is Ali, the waitress from Iowa who quits her job and sings a celebratory song the moment the movie opens. She buys a one-way-ticket to LA, checks into a hotel, and wanders the streets all day looking for a job, until she feels the neon heat radiating from Burlesque's sign.
If you stopped for popcorn, you might have missed this 10 minute introductory interlude. And once seated, hold on tight. The plot continues to move quickly as it follows the full transition of it's very dynamic lead character.
So Ali picks up a tray and starts cocktailing, keeping the money she earns in the back of her toilet.
This is a common mistake small town girls make when they move to big cities. In Coyote Ugly, Violet stashed her cash in the freezer instead of putting it in the bank like the rest of those New York city slickers. And then she was robbed.
So one day, Ali comes home and finds that she has been robbed, forcing her to move in with her cute-bartender-love-interest. But he's engaged, which means the sexual tension will reach unbearable levels before a post-wedding reception hook-up sends their roommate relationship spiraling into shared bedroom territory.
Meanwhile, back at the club, Ali gets her chance to audition when another dancer gets knocked up. But her rival (Kristin Bell) gets jealous and tries to sabotage the number by cutting the music. Ali's quick thinking saves the day when she decides to sing-- much like Violet stopping a bar brawl by singing along with the juke box in Coyote Ugly.
Tess (Cher) the club-owner is so impressed, she and her sassy gay friend decide to build an entire show around Ali and her newfound talents-- complete with a short, blonde wig.
Does Kristin Bell convince us she's an evil brunette? Does Cher serve as timeless matriarch? Yes and yes. Is there even an ounce of feminism in this film? Not really. Is it my new guilty pleasure? I believe so.
The fast-moving storyline is so predictable it's almost insulting. And the glitz and glamor will overload your senses while the un-witty bantor will make your brain hurt.
A cheesy Cinderella tale with a happy ending, it might make you throw up a little bit in your mouth. But the sets, costumes, quivers and shimmies will have your jaw descending to the floor-- if you're into that sort of thing. So let's not forget; while a few of Burlesque's stars are "triple threats," we bought the ticket to hear them sing-- and their melodies do not disappoint.
Besides, when you own it on DVD you can always hide it in another case.