There are a hundred reasons why you probably didn’t see this movie. I know there were for me. Showgirls comes to mind or every remake of Flash Dance since the 80s. But despite all of those fears, Burlesque manages to entertain and exceed expectations. In fact, we may even buy this one eventually.
The story has no surprises. It can’t. It’s a formula and you will forgive it that. We want the formula of small-town girl with talent makes good. You know that going in and you celebrate it going out. But the dialog getting there is wonderfully wry and the interchanges, especially with Tucci and Cher, are worth the time to see. Despite how staged it all is, it comes off as honest. And the road to the finale feels possible, if unlikely. And that’s all the hook you need to hang your hat on to enjoy it all.
The performances, both on and off stage are solid minus one minor frustration. Kirsten Bell is a great actress, but she just didn’t quite come off in this for me as believable. Perhaps it was the directing or script (which alludes to a huge back-story that we never really get), but I never felt the core of truth in her. It doesn’t matter, really, but I was sorry to feel that way as I usually really enjoy her work.
Aguilera, on the other hand, surprised the heck out of me. I’ve never been an admirer of hers, but I am impressed with her voice and talent. In fact, it is her presence that actually makes this movie rise above in a different way. Burlesque, as an art form, is considered long dead by most people. (It isn’t, BTW. Burlesque is alive and well. To see a wonderful documentary, check out A Wink and a Smile about the art form in Seattle.) But it is incredible to see your understanding of the performance change so that it becomes clear that modern pop performances are an updated format of the approach (which probably started with Madonna). It’s all about the tease and fun–and all the current young female singers employ it with impunity in their videos and live performances. Heck, how can you think of Lady Gaga as anything but a performance?
But lest you think this is aimed at men alone, be assured there is plenty of grrl power in the story. So, for a fun evening, check this out. And don’t miss the extras for Alan Cumming’s cut performance of That’s Life. It needed to be cut, but it is a great little post-watch treat.