Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 2010. Screen Gems, De Line Pictures. Screenplay by Steve Antin. Cinematography by Bojan Bazelli. Produced by Donald De Line. Music by Christophe Beck. Production Design by Jon Gary Steele. Costume Design by Michael Kaplan. Film Editing by Virginia Katz.
Christina Aguilera makes her starring debut as, what else, an aspiring singer who is tired of being mistreated by the owner of the Nowheresville, Iowa diner where she works. She helps herself to her salary from the cash register, hits the road and makes it to L.A., where she wastes no time in making her dreams come true.
It all happens rather quickly, actually, when she spots a run-down, struggling burlesque club where the ladies dance sexy (but not dirty), all under the supervision of a towering owner (Cher) who is desperate to keep the place afloat in the face of impending bankruptcy. Aguilera starts off as a waitress before making her way onto the stage, then thanks to the jealous shenanigans of a rival dancer (Kristen Bell) ends up getting to express her vocal stylings in front of the crowd.
When she reveals the trumpeting, booming sound that she’s got hidden beneath her tiny frame, our heroine becomes the star of the club and its possible savior. Meanwhile, she has also become the roommate of the club’s male bartender who, not surprisingly, looks terrific in a bath towel, and she is being romanced by a wealthy real-estate tycoon (Eric Dane) who wants to buy the club and turn it into a condo building.
Where it goes from there I’ll leave you to guess, if you’re not already bored by the tired premise and familiar characterizations; it’s a painful replay of better movies like Moulin Rouge and way worse ones like Showgirls and Coyote Ugly. In its favour it does have Cher, who appears in films far too rarely and continues to present her uncanny knack for delivering dialogue, even the worst dialogue (“Don’t call me ma’am”), without ever making you doubt her character is real.
It also has Aguilera’s musical numbers, which thankfully are in full supply and are superbly achieved: she sings standards like Mae West’s “A Guy What Takes His Time” with style and ease, and hoofs up such a storm that it really makes up for the fact that she is a dull, pedestrian actress.
It’s a terrible, campy movie, but if its high points are what you’re into, you’ll have a good time, particular the zippy closing number: it’s hilarious that her love interest spends the entire film quietly composing piano ballads on his keyboard but the movie ends with him giving her a(n admittedly terrific) number that features beating drums and lyrics like “Get your ass up, show me how you burlesque.”
Also stars Stanley Tucci as Cher’s assistant, doing a vulgar replay of his Devil Wears Prada role in a tackier setting.
Golden Globe Award: Best Original Song (“You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me”)
Nominations: Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Original Song (“Bound To You”)