Burlesque

I went from watching no movies at all for three weeks into the new year to watching 3 movies in 3 consecutive days. A movie a day… keeps the doctor away! That’s my new motto!

Seriously speaking, though, I had the chance to finally watch Burlesque. This movie is interestingly enough directed by a first-time director, Steven Antin, who has worked in other capacities in other movies before (including as an actor in one of my favorite classics, The Goonies),  and had Bojan Bazelli as director of photography. Bazelli worked in another movie musical previously, Adam Shankman’s Hairspray, one of my favorite movie musicals ever.  Now none of these names might be familiar to you – I’m sure everyone else is going all, “Cher! Christina Aguilera! Kristen Bell!” – but they are really the reason why I wanted to see the movie.

Admittedly, I had reservations about the quality of the script. Small town girl going to big city and makes a living out of dancing… that’s not exactly original, is it? Coyote Ugly did it. And even that one staring Mary Elizabeth Winstead did it. What was that one called? Make It Happen? Fresh ideas are really out of stock in Hollywood, aren’t they? Why would anyone want to see a repeat of those movies, despite one being repeated boasting an all-star ensemble cast, used to be beyond me. I would rather watch my The A-Team DVD many times over. Because if we’re going to watch something that is a repeat of something else, we might as well watch something that comes out of an old TV series we love. Also, I am not keen on watching former Twilight baddie, Cam Gigandet (he was the vamp who died in the first movie), in another movie for fear of seeing anything remotely Twifright-ish.

However, I love movie musicals too much to skip this one out. So I sucked it up, bought a ticket, went in, sat down and… I was wowed for two hours straight.

I can list all the reasons why this movie is silly, ranging from Christina Aguilera’s amateurish acting skills to the predictable plot and the plethora of cliché that exist in it and about whether or not this movie shows enough of the true art of Burlesque or just an imitation of it. But I’m not going to. It was too much fun to watch for me to complain loudly about it.

What I like, so very much, about this film is that it takes its time developing the story and the characters. Predictable results, yes. But at least Antin told that story in a sensible way that we could believe. The way Aguilera’s Ali and Gigandet’s Jack interact and build their relationship, the way Cher’s Tess and Stanley Tucci’s Sean go back and forth about their friendship in the present and in the past, the way Kristen Bell’s Nikki act like a self-absorbed diva and burst out in angry and jealous… they were shown as real humans from the way Antin spent his time properly filming these characters’ lives. In the end, once everything was said and done, you have a complete knowledge of who they are and you don’t wonder where they come from and where they will go. There’s a gratifying sense of fulfillment about these characters.

Just so you know, in that regard, this film is very similar to Robert Schwentke’s Red (the Golden Globe nominated based-on-comic movie starring Bruce Willis). Kudos to both directors for their ace storytelling methods.

But even more than that, Antin did indeed put a lot of thought into creating the musical numbers. Each and every one of them are stunning. The actresses and the dancers are gorgeous. From what I know of burlesque’s nature of “risqué but not sexual”, this movie definitely captured that spirit. One number – the name of the song escapes me but this was the one where Aguilera wears a curly blonde wig and a costume of pearls that got stripped down piece by piece – clearly displayed how dancing while shedding layers of your outfit did not equal a striptease. It was very classy, very well-executed and, admittedly, very fun and cheeky. And while I’m still not enamored by Aguilera’s overwhelmingly powerful vocal, I am impressed by the songs she wrote for this film. Without a doubt, the woman has talent and compared to the her fellow blondes, this girl is going to stick around for a while.

Out of all the actors, though, I am most impressed by three. First, Stanley Tucci. This man does not get enough praise–he is actually quite a genius. I just love seeing all of his antics in here. And, once again, I do admire a straight actor who can play a gay man to such perfection. He’s done it once in The Devil Wears Prada; he does it again here. If any young actor want to successfully play that kind of man? Point him out to Mr. Tucci, right away. Second, Kristen Bell. Apparently, what she had to do to convince me she could actually act was to become a brunette and play an alcoholic prima donna. She didn’t get enough scenes in the movie, as far as I’m concerned, and I hope she considers to continue dancing and keeping the black hair. I think I have a girl crush on her now. And third, of course, Gigandet. I am very sorry for underestimating him, I can admit I was wrong. He is, without a doubt, a very good actor. I couldn’t see traces of his other roles in this guyliner-wearing Jack persona and, for me, that’s a mark of excellent acting chops. I’m intrigued and I want to see him in more movies.

So in the end I realized that it’s not about “what the story is”. It’s about “how you tell the story”. By paying great attention to detail and gathering a crew of talented people, Antin managed to keep a story that has been told many times over fresh and fun to watch. While Burlesque is not going to win any acting award, it is still a film that shows a great amount of filmmaking excellence. I applaud Antin and his cast and crew for this achievement.

In case you couldn’t figure out what I’m trying to say… do watch this one. It’s, simply put, awesome.