Sunday 5 March 2017

Movie Review: Striptease (1996)

An adult-oriented comedy thriller, Striptease attempts to mix salaciousness with humour and some action. It falls short on almost all counts.

In Florida, Erin Grant (Demi Moore), formerly an FBI secretary, loses custody of her young daughter Angela (Rumer Willis) to her sleazeball husband Darrell (Robert Patrick). To make the quick money she needs to launch an appeal, Erin accepts a job stripping at the Eager Beaver nightclub, where the sympathetic bouncer Shad (Ving Rhames) looks after the girls.

One night Erin catches the eye of David Dilbeck (Burt Reynolds), a lecherous Congressman. Dilbeck is photographed getting into an embarrassing altercation at the club, setting off a cycle of blackmail that spirals into murder. Lieutenant Al Garcia (Armand Assante) starts snooping around, and Erin finds herself sucked into a world of big money, political corruption and personal danger as she doggedly pursues custody of Angela.

Directed and written by Andrew Bergman, Striptease is most famous for Demi Moore's record $12.5 million salary, and for perhaps being the first movie where an A-list actress aggressively promotes her nudity almost for its own sake. The film is not good, but also not nearly as awful as its reputation.

After the critical failure of 1995's Showgirls, the marketing and tone of Striptease was thrown into disarray, with attempts to focus more on the comedy and human story while somehow still capitalizing on Moore's bareness. The disconnects are evident in the film. The striptease sequences are longer and more numerous than they need to be for any purpose other than cheap titillation. When she is not gyrating, and despite the lack of meaningful character depth, Moore adopts a serious and dramatic mother-on-a-quest stance, which is generally completely at odds with all that is going on around her.

Burt Reynolds as Congressman Dilbeck and Robert Patrick as the lowlife Darrell are on a different wavelength entirely and play their roles with screwball intentions. The result is quite a few funny moments, but also a film that is mainly stuck in a no man's land as eroticism, drama and comedy walk away from each other.

Despite the disharmony, the film delivers several sharp jabs towards the hypocrisy of seedy politicians like Dilbeck, a man who cannot control his libido, gets off on Erin's laundry lint and slathers himself with Vaseline in search of a cheap thrill, but yet stands up and pontificates about family values at election events. And Reynolds is in fine form, infusing the role with a breathtaking level of selfish yet clueless entitlement.

Ironically Striptease is limp when revealing flesh, but sharp when shredding spurious sanctimony.

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