On opening night, I saw the new film Burlesque at the Epicentre Theaters. The three of us literally WERE the entire audience in that room — we had our own private performance.
I went in with low expectations of a lackluster musical, a feature-length big-screen equivalent of television’s Glee or the sultry adult equivalent of High School Musical. Instead, I was treated to an engaging, charming, invigorating movie that had me clapping and cheering out loud several times.
Seriously, I know critics are aghast at this film — as I write this, RottenTomatoes.com has a combined critics rating of 32% — but I really enjoyed it. And apparently, I’m not alone, as that same website quotes 82% of users liking the film.
Sure, it’s not exactly an innovating storyline. Pretty young woman, with no real backstory or character development, moves from Iowa to Los Angeles in the hopes of making it big in show business. Aging performer and club owner trying to keep the doors open in tough economic times. Cute guy helps the girl out, is a great guy but unavailable… handsome rich sleazeball thinks he can buy and sell whomever he wants, and heroine tries to resist falling under his spell.
Okay yeah, all individual components that have been done before. And no single character really gets much development. Many of the plot turns are predictable. But the characters and story arcs are familiar because they work. A bit clichéd, but the plot and the acting were both ultimately satisfying.
The cast was also pretty incredible — the lead roles were great, as expected, but there were smaller roles from many terrific actors. Stanley Tucci gave the best performance in the film (from an acting perspective at least) and both Alan Cumming and Peter Gallagher make great appearances in sadly-underutilized roles. Still, all of the actors went far beyond simple star-quality and good looks.
And the music and dancing? Unbelievable. It was stunningly performed, riveting, and as I mentioned earlier, several scenes ended with us enthusiastically cheering and applauding.
Burlesque is flashy, with its greatest strength clearly in the musical performances throughout, but all-in-all it’s a very entertaining film. Don’t expect a life-changing message or a particularly unique storyline, and you’ll probably have an enjoyable time.