If you love burlesque like I do, you might have had mixed feelings when you heard about the movie “Burlesque.” Just how badly might Christina Aguilera and Cher butcher this thing that I love? But on the other hand, how awful can a movie be if Stanley Tucci is in it?
I had to get to the bottom of this caper, so I wrangled two hungover New York City burlesque stars, Anita Cookie and Clams Casino, for a Friday afternoon showing of “Burlesque.” I am sure you will be shocked — shocked! — to learn that Hollywood took some creative liberties with the art of burlesque. (Spoilers ahead!)
Ali (played by Christina Aguilera) is a bartender someplace sucky in Iowa. After raiding the cash register for owed wages, she buys a one-way ticket to Los Angeles.
Anita Cookie: “It’s already a bad sign she’s going to L.A. and not New York.”
After failing to find a job in the “help wanted” ads — I guess Craigslist hasn’t made its way to Iowa? — one evening Ali wanders into a burlesque club and gapes at the performers. “What is this place?” she asks. “A strip club?” The guy at the door tells her the only Pole is Natasha, the shot girl.
Anita Cookie: “A lot of burlesque performers do dance on the pole.”
Ali meets Jack, the hot bartender (played by Cam Gigandet), and pretty much forces him to hire her as cocktail waitress. Serving drinks backstage, she meets bitchy Nikki (played by Kristen Bell), the star of the show, and Tess, (played by Cher) who is trying to keep the club from being foreclosed by the bank. When Tess sees Nikki drinking, she angrily sends her home. Minus Nikki, the other performers go onstage to dance and lip synch.
Clams Casino: “Drinking is allowed. Oh yeah!”
Anita Cookie: “Lip synching is more of a drag queen thing … You go to see drag queens lip synch to Judy or Babs. It was the most incorrect thing I’ve seen in my whole life! [Burlesque performers lip synching] is amateurish!”
While working as a cocktail waitress, Ali learns all the dancers’ moves so when Tess holds auditions to replace a pregnant performer, Ali begs to be allowed to show her stuff. Reluctantly, Tess hires her. This, of course, makes Nikki jealous. Nikki tries to sabotage Ali’s performance by killing the music — but little does she know Ali’s got a pair of “mutant lungs,” as the screenwriters put it. Once Tess sees Ali can sing, she pronounces Ali the star of the show and vows to pull and all-nighter writing a new act to focus on Ali’s singing.
Anita Cookie: “Burlesque is about creative ownership. Burlesque is about being individuals … and Christina isn’t.”
Clams Casino: “They don’t have stage names! The character is so important to burlesque and I think the stage name is really important to burlesque. … This movie has nothing to do with burlesque.”
Anita Cookie: “It’s a cabaret show! If they had called it “Cabaret” instead of “Burlesque,” it would have been fine.”
Surprise, surprise, Ali is the hit of the show! Tess might not be headed to financial ruin after all. Most of the performances look something like this:
We won’t ruin ALL of the movie for you. But suffice it to say, actual burlesque performers don’t dance like that, or sing like that, or wear costumes like that, or look like that.
Anita Cookie: “There was no body diversity. We’ve got big boobs, little boobs, big butts, small butts. Also, the costume budget is clearly over the top.”
Clams Casino: “It was very ‘Hollywood’ … So much of burlesque is celebrating female sexuality.”
Anita Cookie: “This movie was terrible for female sexuality … Definitely no strong women [in this movie]. It’s just another romantic comedy … It’s disheartening because burlesque is a subject full of all these amazing points it didn’t cover.”
Did you see “Burlesque” this weekend? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!
Images via IMDb and courtesy of Clams Casino.