“Burlesque” Dressed Down

By Michael S. Goldberger, film critic

It’s a good thing Cher and I aren’t best friends. I can just imagine our repartee at her Malibu home following the premiere of her newest star vehicle, “Burlesque,” written and directed by first time filmmaker Steve Antin.

Cher: (throaty) You’ve been avoiding me, Mike. I think I know what that means.
Mike: (body language, evasive) Swell party. Boy, this is a great view from the terrace. The lights from the boats are beautiful.
Cher: I know, I know. And the dip is great, and you like what I’ve done with the den. Gosh, it’s so obvious. Why did you even come, then?
Mike: Well, that’d be a little too obvious.
Cher: Oh, you critics are all alike. What do you know anyway?
Mike: Right, so what does it matter? Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am. No skin off my Ashtabula.


Cher: I want the truth.
Mike: Look, you’re a big star…always will be. What were you trying to prove…that you’ve still got it? Well, you’ve probably got more of it than any other 63-year-old, whatever it is. But I think you’re trying to prove the wrong thing. I’d rather see you as a very young 63 than a very old 40.
Cher: And the character? Tess?
Mike: OK, so she’s a big, beautiful, tough survivor, a relic of an age that died before she was even born. She’s hanging on to her burlesque-themed Sunset Strip club for dear life…
Cher: (interrupting) Uh, you don’t see the analogy?

Mike: Oh, she’s fun if you want to go slumming. But you’ve earned your chops. Too bad you can’t just demonstrate what a fine actress you are…something with a little prestige, instead of bellowing out big numbers to show you can hit the high ones. And the outfits. I know it’s your trademark, but gee, maybe I really don’t know anything. Are you going to still wear those getups when you’re 90?
Cher:  (laughing, turning her face into a smiling rainbow) Yeah, maybe just to spite prudes like you. Listen, I know it’s not “Moonstruck” or “Mask.” But those roles don’t just come around every day. What’d you think of Christina?

Mike: Granted, Miss Aguilera as Ali is an energetic dynamo. She’s got pipes like Celine. Still, not my cup of tea. And she can’t act a lick. Puh-leeze…a blonde from Iowa come to Hollywood to make it big? Starts as a waitress at your club, and waits for her big chance? Quelle cliché, Cher? Channeling Norma Jean, but without the raw acting talent—voluptuous sans the sexiness. And anyway, I don’t like this young-old counterpoising thing for you…at least not with her.

Cher: So, I’m off the hook, huh? Just made a bad choice. How charitable.

Mike: Oh, it’s plenty colorful. And I guess the dancing is good.
Cher: (pouting contentiously) Hmm, but how about my relationship with Stanley Tucci as Sean, my manager/stage director. He’s my soul mate, the love of my life, yet alas he’s gay.
Mike: It’s always great to see Tucci. But are you serious? It’s like he just leapfrogged from his stint as Nigel in “The Devil Wears Prada”…didn’t even have to change.
Cher: (chuckling) OK then, what about the kid as Jack, Ali’s love interest?
Mike: Cam Gigandet is a good looking young man, the slight sort popular with the younger set these days. But I fear that, along with the Botox, you’ve been vaccinated against recognizing triteness. There can’t possibly be room in Hollywood for one more aspiring songwriter/composer who, because he’s afraid to self-actualize, hides behind his bartending gig.

Cher: (a coyness in her eyes) You’re just mad at me.
Mike: For what?
Cher: Not introducing you to Janis in the ‘60’s.
Mike: Good thing, as it turned out. But nah, this just wasn’t for you. You’re made of better stuff. If you did it for the money, great. Times are tough. But c’mon. A plot about the bank threatening foreclosure on the club, replete with a modern update of Oil Can Harry scheming to buy you out, can hardly be considered a socially redeeming commentary on our times.
Cher: What do you want me to do, cure cancer, do a remake of Madame Curie?
Mike: That’d be less of a stretch than this trailer park version of “Cabaret.”

Cher: Oooh, you’re such a snob. So how many popcorns you giving it?
Mike: (grimacing) One and a half.
Cher: That’s it! We’re not friends anymore, just like you said at the top of the column. So what’s your last line? I want to know before I kick you out of my house. And don’t eat any more of my dip. What’s your last line?
Mike: “‘Burlesque’ strips Cher of her dignity.”
Cher: (shaking her head) Looks like neither of us has any shame.

“Burlesque,” rated PG-13, is a Screen Gems release directed by Steve Antin and stars Cher, Christina Aguilera and Cam Gigandet. Running time: 100 minutes

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