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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Retro Review: Striptease (1996)

Cast: Demi Moore, Burt Reynolds, Ving Rhames, Robert Patrick
Genre: Erotic Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $113 million 

Plot: To take on the system, she first must take it off. Erin Grant is a single mother who turns to stripping to acquire the money she needs for a custody suit involving her child

'Uneven Movie Lacking Entertainment, Over-The-Top Thrills & Appeal of Showgirls'

Much like with Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls, Striptease received a very bad rap from critics, as well as being declared as a box office flop when it was released way back in the mid-1990s. The failure of Striptease also ended Demi Moore's career, which during the 1990s, has been a bit of a mixed bag that opened up with worldwide success in Ghost alongside Patrick Swayze to lukewarm reception to Disclosure (which I enjoyed personally) to the not so well received G.I Jane

Based on the book, the book itself has FBI secretary turned topless dancer in Erin as a mess and her husband appears to be a lot more cartoonish here than in the novel. Had Striptease been a drama, as opposed to a satirical comedy and events in the film were conceived in a more conventional way, I think it would have been better received. Because here as a comedy, it doesn't quite work out; in fact, the confusing mix of comedy and drama is further hindered by a bad script, penned by Andrew Bergman, whose previous works include Blazing Saddles, Honeymoon in Vegas & It Could Happen to You, and the sheer lack of direction. 

Whereas Daniel Hillard in Mrs Doubtfire deceives the courts and disguises himself as a 70- year- old Scottish housekeeper in order to see his kids, here Erin turns to stripping and taking her clothes off and to earn money for her child's custody. She even goes as far as snatching her daughter from her boozy, thief of an ex-hubby, played by Terminator 2's Robert Patrick with an overly exaggerated Southern accent. Erin comes across as a likeable character and does all that she can to support her daughter. Congressman Dilbeck makes a fool of himself by getting drunk at the bar and after that, making a lunge for Erin whilst she is performing on stage and hitting another guy on the head with a bottle. When someone captures this on film, a game of blackmail and murder ensues. 

Unlike Showgirls, Striptease plays out as an intentional comedy of all sorts, not to mention the soundtrack for this film is great; yet the comedy aspect was an abject failure because it wasn't amusing, - but also when it tried to be amusing, it fell flat. 

Striptease essentially is no more different to any of those other straight-to-DVD softcore porn erotic drama flicks; the only thing it has is a slightly bigger budget and Demi Moore, who gets to show more skin in this film than in her other offerings. Burt Reynolds is miscast as the dumb, sleazeball dirty old man politician, who thinks of nothing but getting inside Erin's panties (or knickers as we call them in Britain); that, and he looks weird with that fake white wig. Though he is supposedly a comic relief-type character, in turn, he comes off as being too creepy for me to not take so seriously. Demi Moore looks in great shape and well-toned, though I do think she could have done far better, had this film had a better script; instead, more attention will be paid to her almost naked body than her actual acting performance. 

The comedy is a bit on the corny side and whilst I have not read the book, judging this film on its own merits, as the book was originally a drama with the film being a dark comedy when it descended into the dramatic elements, it just never really came well together. There is no evolution with the characters and the stripper storyline lacks real bite. The narrative wasn't very entertaining and the purpose of seeing this film is to see Demi Moore in the nude. Storywise, even though the plots are not too similar, Striptease pales in comparison to Showgirls: Showgirls' story, for me, was a lot more engrossing, entertaining and was watchable all the way through. And that film was a drama, but the film's conception of the stripper dancer thing was handled way better by Joe Esterhaz via Paul Verhoeven. 

Striptease is muddled, perplexing at times and very weak when it came to the story that didn't really set the film alight and at almost an exasperating 2 hours long, this should have been an hour and 30 mins instead. There is virtually no suspense, no intrigue; the custody plotline lacked bite and conviction for me to take it seriously enough. Not even Ving Rhames could do much about it - and still, it seems he knows he is in such a turkey of a movie that he goes along for the ride.

Striptease is an even bigger mess than Showgirls - and yet that movie was trashed and further berated, even more so than the former. 

Final Verdict:

It's too bad that Striptease's subject matter wasn't so well presented by the writer and the director, nor was and is it as entertaining as Showgirls. Indeed, Showgirls did it better, for me, because it clearly went way over-the-top, had wackier characters and was far more entertaining with unintentional laughs. Given that Striptease lacks the thrills, shocks, twists, over-the-top silliness, as well as the story's believability of Verhoeven's 1995 movie, meant that this film is executed with less bite and lacks the dramatic weight that would have further upped Striptease

Billed as a satirical comedy about a stripper trying to make ends meet, there are very few laughs to be found. The tonal shift is so wobbly, it doesn't help matters, either: one minute it tries to be serious, the next, it is light-hearted - and this is so uneven. 

Striptease's mix of eroticism- or be its distinct lack of- comedy and drama, interesting characters - doesn't come together, and yet had this film stuck with the original novel when adapting it to the big screen, I might have enjoyed it far more. 

Instead, in Striptease, we have a so-called erotic comedy that, in many respects, quite simply, just doesn't go far enough. 


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