Burlesque (2010)

Rated: Rated PG-13 for sexual content including several suggestive dance routines, partial nudity, language and some thematic material.
Length: 119 minutes
Grade: B,C-,B,B+=B
Rotten Tomatoes: 36% favorable 4.8/10 average
Budget: $55 million
Box Office: $108 million (39 U.S., 50 Intl., 19 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Steve Antin (only previous script was for Chasing Papi)
Starring: Christina Aguilera and Cher
With: Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell, and Stanley Tucci.

A small town girl with big dreams flees to LA and becomes a waitress in a burlesque club, hoping for her chance to be on stage. Meanwhile, the club owner is under financial pressure to sell her beloved dream to a developer. There’s a romance, too.

Entertainment Value: B
I was quite pleasantly surprised by this one, which I frankly anticipated being either raunchy or terrible or both. Yes, it’s uber-campy and fairly predictable. But I found myself enjoying it pretty much the entire time, other than the completely out-of-place slow solos by Cher and Aguilera. It’s not nearly as deliberately funny as Moulin Rouge, it’s far less brooding than Nine, and it’s more playful than Chicago. The music is cool. The dancing is entertaining without being lewd (mostly). And the acting is relatively un-awful, except for Stanley Tucci, who is fantastic and one of my favorite actors.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity C, Violence A, Language C-
The entire movie takes place at a night club, so alcohol is constantly present and being drunk. The language is enough to make it PG-13. There’s no violence. But the real question is sexuality. For the most part, this compares well with most dance programs on television for sexuality. However, there is one sequence involving partial nudity of a man and another with partial nudity of a woman. There’s only one sex scene, and it’s pretty tame by PG-13 standards. There is one gay character and his love life is an issue in one scene. Overall, PG-13 is the right rating, possibly R-15.

Significant Content: B
Loyalty and the distinction between the real and the fake are themes here. This shows up in people, romances, relationships, and even the choice to make art rather than profits. There is a clear distinction made between people who are selfish and people who are other-oriented and the good/bad line is clear. The club functions like a family, and Cher is the loving mother. Also, just as an aside, a girl who gets pregnant never even considers an abortion and winds up marrying the father. Not bad for a “sleazy Hollywood” film as many would probably prefer to see it.

Artistic/Thought Value: B+
Okay, I know lots of people will disagree with me about this, but here goes. Although this is clearly a movie with lots of nice-looking women dancing suggestively, I did not think the movie was particularly sexual. The key here is to understand the difference between burlesque and its often-confused-with cousin, stripping. This is not a movie about stripping. Burlesque normally involves either no or only a little loss of clothing. Rather, it’s women dancing and singing and doing so humorously rather than erotically. In fact, burlesque in my opinion is far more like ballroom dancing or gymnastics or ice skating than it is like stripping. And although I was concerned going in that this would be an arousing movie, it really wasn’t. So as a simple contrast with all the lurid sexuality present in so many movies and also as a contrast with the now socially acceptable notion of stripping, the class and performance ability of burlesque presented here is actually an improvement in morality and decency, not a degradation. To put it another way, I would never go into a strip club, but I would probably go to the burlesque show as presented in this movie. Now, all of that aside, what other values are present here?

Discussion Questions:
--What, if anything, makes burlesque as shown here different from stripping? Would you think it a good idea for a man to patronize a night club like this? If you had a daughter, would you encourage her to pursue a career in burlesque if she wanted to? What is the difference between acceptable forms of feminine entertaining and unacceptable ones? Does burlesque objectify women?
--Identify which people in this movie care about others, and which care only about themselves?
--Which sort of performance do you think is better: dancing and lip syncing to the classics, singing them live, or performing original music?
--Why does Jack struggle to complete any of his music? In what sense might you say that an incomplete person can only make incomplete art? What makes him complete?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
--Ali’s first solo.
--The end scene burlesque.

Overall Grade: B
Maybe it’s the lover of stage and dance in me, but despite having my guard up because it stars Cher and Christina Aguilera, I was entertained mostly the whole time here, and the final number is fantastic.

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