Well, it’s official. I completely disagree with every review I’ve read, capsule or detailed, on the film Burlesque. People, lighten up. Let yourself be entertained, no heavy thinking involved.
Seriously, I could easily sit through it 10 more times.
Sometimes I wonder if my simple movie tastes are a product of being a life coach who has an eye for the big themes in life, no matter how obvious or so-called cliché they might be. This one – written and directed by Steve Antin -- is bold, visually stimulating, sexy, inspiring and redemptive.
Ouch. What a turnoff.
I don’t know. A girl with no family who moves from Iowa to Los Angeles because she has a monster voice, a dream to go with it, and the insight that when she looks around her town there is no one whose life she wants … well, that girl has my attention. She’s gutsy, she works her butt off, she creates her own breaks and, uh, hello, the voice. The voice. Goose bumps, again and again.
Christina Aguilera’s on-screen debut is stunning. You want her to sing. You long for her sing. And you know it’s coming. Antin paces the film so that when she finally does it’s a sweet payoff.
Is it predictable in spots? Sure. I prefer to think of that as reinforcing so much of what we know about life. The hard work will pay off. Patience will be rewarded. Love is scary and possible and worth it. Truth wins out. The Universe has impeccable timing. High heels exude sex. Taken as part of a continuum, setbacks open up new pathways and allow us to adjust our direction.
Antin is almost formulaic in laying out the story complete with antagonists, good vs. evil, romantic interests and the like. Yet I was invested from the start. Maybe it’s because my own story and those of the most successful people I know are replete with those same moments, the kind where someone else’s misstep or misfortune creates an opportunity for another who is just waiting for the chance to step up and shine. Or the aching feeling of being attracted to someone who isn’t available or reciprocating. Or the unflinching desire to become what you know you can be.
Even if all that escapes you while watching Burlesque, how in the world can the artistry not captivate your senses? The sculpted bodies adorned in exquisitely skimpy costumes, the glitzy makeup, the dazzling choreography, the dimly lit club atmosphere. And did I mention The Voice?
There is something about Aguilera’s own story that made it particularly poignant to watch her in the role of Ali. According to the VH1 “Behind the Music” about her life, it was meeting writer/producer Linda Perry that flipped a switch from safe, pop star Christina to full-bodied, soft, intense, mega-presence Christina.
On the ASCAP Web site it says, “ … Perry widened the scope of Christina Aguilera’s CD, Stripped, helping the young singer tap into darker recesses with intensely personal, raw songs like ‘I'm OK’ and ‘Beautiful.’”
It was Perry, in fact, who wrote the song “Beautiful” and, although wanting to sing it herself, relinquished it to Aguilera because she knew that marriage of song to singer had magic in it. It became Aguilera’s signature song, winning a 2004 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
It is not a stretch to picture all of that emotion and life experience being funneled into the role of Ali. Sometimes when we see outsized talent in another it is easy to forget that deep inside is often the little girl who is feeling scared and alone and is pushing through that every single day to at least make a living and at best maximize her gifts.
Virtually every person I life coach needs to be reminded of some aspect of this, some variation of ‘If it doesn’t scare you, it probably isn’t worth doing.’ People who live that way, who climb with purpose but also take time to listen, who prepare for the outcome they want, they begin to feel as if things are going their way because they’ve gone with the natural flow of things.
For example, there is a point in the movie where Ali is given a chance to strut her stuff and she tells Tess – compellingly played by Cher – that she can perform any number in the show. She had been watching and painstakingly memorizing moves as she waited tables night after night. This was her chance, her opening.
I don’t have to tell you how it ends. It’s a Hollywood-based flick, for goodness sake. I suggest you revel in its predictability.
You can watch some thoughtful documentary tomorrow.