AWFJ Women On Film – “Burlesque” – Review by Susan Granger

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“Burlesque” is a tawdry TinselTown amalgam of “Showgirls” and “Glitter.”

Set on a Sunset Boulevard in the almost-bankrupt Burlesque Lounge, it focuses on the relationship between Tess (Cher), the club’s cynical co-owner and resident diva, and an ambitious, nubile naïf from Iowa named Ali Rose (Christina Aguilera), who charms the sensitive, mascara-wearing bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet from “Twilight”) into hiring her as a cocktail waitress and letting her share his apartment. There’s even more backstage melodrama when Georgia (“Dancing With the Stars” winner Jennifer Hough) gets pregnant – making room for Ali’s G-string debut – as boozing Nikki (Kirsten Bell) grows insanely jealous of Ali’s popularity. Meanwhile, Tess’s ex-husband/business partner Vince (Peter Gallagher) is pushing her to sell out to Marcus (Eric Dane), a randy real estate developer determined to build a high-rise tower, while Sean (Stanley Tucci), her gay confidante/stage manager, assures her that somehow things will work out.

Surrounded by scantily clad showgirls, 64 year-old Cher’s first campy number is “Welcome to Burlesque” and, later, she straddles a chair (a la Marlene Dietrich) and sings the anthem-establishing “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.” Unfortunately, the remainder of the musical numbers is centered on Christina Aguilera, who demonstrates at the outset with “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” that she can belt out a song but certainly cannot act. One yearns in vain for Cher/Aguilera duet. Appearing as the androgynous emcee Alexis, Alan Cumming’s “Cabaret” talent is underutilized.

Director/screenwriter Steve Antin emphasizes the garish extravaganza’s sequins-and-feathers naughtiness, clearly influenced by his sister Robin, creator of the bump-and-grind Pussycat Dolls, with nods to Sally Rand and Lily St. Cyr. But Antin’s characters are disappointingly underwritten and, therefore, quickly become clichéd caricatures, spouting ludicrous lines like “I will not be upstaged by some chick with mutant lungs” and “How many times have I held your head over the toilet while you threw up everything but your memories?”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to10, “Burlesque” is a shimmying, shaking, preposterous 5, emerging as another splashy, sleazy showbiz tale, signifying very little.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.