Saturday, 22 January 2011

Welcome to Burlesque

For all its fault there’s one thing about Steve Antin’s Burlesque that it would be stupid to deny it of – Antin approaches the story with so much conviction that even when his script is at its weakest (and there are those moments) his exactitude – no matter how misplaced – ensures that the narrative moves – or occasionally plods – forwards always certain of where it wants to go. True to form, the story’s simple – a small-town girl makes a move to L.A. with hopes of making it big, enter Cher’s Tess with her potentially defunct Burlesque club with an oily businessman breathing down her throat ready to buy her out. In that way, Burlesque is sort of like one of those pastiche musicals that an aspiring musical director would make – a story that’s stripped down to the bare essentials with random numbers throwing sometimes (but not always) moving the plot forward but always offering up a slab of pleasure – just like the club itself.
The shining light of Burlesque is the fact that Antin knows what he wants and he has a sensibility for putting on musical numbers that’s – at times – fascinating to watch. It’s a little bit of Chicago, a little bit of Cabaret with some Moulin Rouge and possibly Coyote Ugly and a little bit of Spice World - for good measure thrown in just for kicks. He is not especially interested in hiding the fact that he’s taking cues from past films – but that knack for evoking films that have come before doesn’t make his decisions any less judicious – which is a welcome surprise. Not that Burlesque ends up becoming a technical spectacle of any sort, but it’s sumptuously put on – especially those costumes which I’m glad have attracted some love from the guilds. The music is never as extraneous as you’d expect there, even if one or two numbers hang just a little there’s always something nice to take away from it (Alan Cummings, forever a trooper, I’m talking to you).
And, the performances – Christina is neither excellent nor terrible in her debut. Despite her intensity in song, she has a surprising knack for the lighter portions of the film which makes me wish that Burlesque had played up the humour a bit more. This is the girl who was hung up on teasing us from “What A Girl Wants” to “Dirrty”. Even though her offstage persona is tinged with just the right amount of playfulness she’s not fully able to reconcile that with her stage performances which are just too adult to be authentic for Ally (but she’s fun to watch – either way). Cher, in all her agelessness offers up her usually acerbic self and makes the most of Tess. She’s fun to watch and though she’s regaled to a mere two numbers – neither of which turns into a duet with Christina (FAIL) she’s wonderful especially opposite Tucci who’s delightful – as always. Burlesque is the type of child on the playground that you’d willingly mock just because it wears its heart on its sleeves and is soooooooo obvious in all that it does. But, it doesn’t really care – and really, the teasing would be injudicious. It’s imprudent to call it a horrible film, because other than script that (admittedly) meanders a little too much to its own detriment, critiquing a film does not begin and end with a script. Burlesque is fun and at times even funny, perhaps harmlessly so – but we can’t really expect each film that falls in our laps to land with a resounding reverberation – can we?


Jess said...

I knew you'd like it!

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Hell yeah! Sincerity and humor triumph over any weak writing! See also: Xanadu.

M. Hufstader said...

I have to agree with you here. It was the most endearing movie I'd seen in a while, in that it definitely put its heart on its sleeve. It's honest about what it is and makes no moves to hide it. My only complaint was if you're going to make a movie about Burlesque, let's throw a little of that dark circus atmosphere in it, yeah? They caught it a little in the first Burlesque number, but then it sizzled and died away into a pile of fluff. But maybe I just wanted to see Eric Dane slap someone.

Nonetheless, great review! I think you pretty much summed it up.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jess yeah, i did like it...not as much as my sister...but i did.

walter i was surprised at how funny it was.

m. hufstader i get what you mean, some more dark stuff might have been fun.