Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie pick: Burlesque!! Yes, really. Go have some fun with family values

I went into this movie with no expectations except glitter, and I was not one tiny bit disappointed. (A couple spoilers below.)

In fact, in contrast to all the critical reviews I saw, there were moments I was impressed. The acting's not Oscar worthy or anything, although it is a TON of fun to watch Cher and Stanley Tucci together-- they clearly enjoy and respect each other (or act really well as if they do). Who doesn't love watching a fabulously flamboyant woman whose comedic straight man is her gay best friend?  Cher had a wonderfully confidence in  her character Tess. She was like a cat who knows that every stretch, swat and swing of the tail is watched and admired. So I forgave her character the moments of stubbornness and self-pity-- I like watching a woman who's confident in the story she has to tell.

Christina isn't as convincing as an actress, but I didn't care. I was waiting for her to cause a rumble with those pipes. She has such an incredible voice, I didn't care about the acting. But when she was acting onstage in the movie's burlesque show, she was terrific. So much fun!!  She looked totally free, even as her voice and her moves stayed disciplined. And THAT is a performance worth watching.

Some themes I noted:
  • Yer mom! Family values?! I swear, it was in there.  Moms and family might seem to have nothing to do with feather boas and pasties.  But messages and talk of family persisted throughout the movie. This might be one of the most interesting artistic messages/themes of the movie. I'm serious! Just a handful of examples that I can remember- there are probably more:
    • Christina Aguilera's character Ali has pennies to her name, but demonstrates that she thinks the mom-child relationship is important when she hands over some money and says to her co-worker: "Buy this toy for your kid. I know you've been wanting to get it for him." She could have kept the money or given it to her co-worker for drinks after work, but nope. There's a reason for it, I think...
    • ... Ali lost her mom at age 7
    • And Ali having no family comes up a couple times in key emotional moments with Jack and Tess
    • Jack's engaged- but his relationship isn't a model of family warmth
    • Theme of "I'm not your mom" and "You're not my mom" come up over and over
    • Tess' general motherliness to the performers and staff at her club
    • A dancer gets pregnant and then married
    • Notably, when the dancer gets pregnant, Tess knows which dancer it is even though she can only see the bottom of her shoes from under the bathroom stall when she's got morning sickness
    • And Tess tells that dancer that "we're family, we take care of each other"
    • Jack's mom gave him adorable pj's (but used to highly sexy and comedic effect)
    • Jack breaks off the engagement when he realizes what he really wants in a relationship
    • Themes of "we're a family/forgiveness/come back to us" thread throughout
    • Still not convinced? Think it's kind of unexpected to have something to say about moms in a movie that's about shaking your moneymaker? But maybe that's a message-- you can still work it even after you birth it.  Christina's got it, Cher's got it, and one of the dancers gets pregnant. But if you could have or BE a mom with moves as hot as Cher and X-Tina, why *wouldn't* you be rocking it? Now that is a life lesson for us all.
    • Diversity is fun!  Ok, my first reaction to the diversity of the cast was 'WOOT!' It was great to see a range of beauty up there in race (and sort of somewhat, though not much, in size). They obviously put some thought into diversity, which I appreciated. On the other hand, I realized that *some* thought doesn't mean *good* thought or deep thought (not that I'm begging Burlesque to provide deep thoughts, but still). None of the main roles went to actors of color: Cher, Christina, Cam Gigandet (Jack), Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell (the main female rival), Eric Dane (the main male rival). Diversity is fun -- to give lip service to? Sigh. Blonde wins here, but at least we all have fun watching.
    • Last big theme: Know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em.  Tess holds onto the club far past the point of financial reason, but she knows she's got something good. Ali helps her figure out how to turn that intuition into cold hard cash. (That's another part of the daydream, folks! Don't go thinking you can do what they did to save your home!)  It's part of the fable, the theme of letting go and holding on. Jack has to decide in his relationship with his fiancee whether he's going to hold on or take a chance, let her go and possibly find his best friend and soulmate.  Ali, too, has to decide whether she's going to hold on to the seemingly safe relationship where her material desires could be met (hello Christian Louboutin!) or let it go and go for one where she's got an emotional connection.  (I know, the suspense! Which could it be?!)
    With all this, bear in mind: This is just a fun movie, especially if you like fantasy and feathers and glitter and romance. Yes, I still have a bit of my sixteen year old self in me. If you're into chair dancing at the movies and think it's fun to imagine yourself in feathers too, I say go for it guilt-free. Have fun!!