Thursday, July 29, 2010

Film Review: STRIPTEASE (1996, Andrew Bergman)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 117 minutes.
Tag-line: "Some People Get Into Trouble No Matter What They WEAR."
Notable Cast or Crew: Demi Moore, Ving Rhames, Robert Patrick, Armand Assante, Burt Reynolds, Rumer Willis, Pandora Peaks. Cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt (THE HUNGER, THE COTTON CLUB, LETHAL WEAPON). Music by Howard Shore (AFTER HOURS, VIDEODROME, THE LORD OF THE RINGS).
Best one-liner: "I don't need no stripper to telling me how to live!"
Best eerily Hawksian exchange: "So we're it? A cop and a bouncer?" –"Plus two strippers and a kid. We're in great shape." Compare to RIO BRAVO: "A game-legged old man and a drunk. That's all you got?" –"That's WHAT I got."

Now here's a crowded, chinwagging tableau that would make Howard Hawks proud, presented without comment: "Creamed corn wrestling!" "-Corn?" "-Corn wrestling?" "-That's disgusting!" "-No chance that I'm gonna roll naked in creamed corn with a bunch of drunken yahoos trying to stick niblets up my hoo-ha!"

Note Fabio poster.

Playing out like an unholy second-generation love-child of Elmore Leonard and Menahem Golan, the set-up to STRIPTEASE is this: Judge awards custody of Rumer Willis to deadbeat dad Robert Patrick, and FBI employee Demi Moore must strip for her daughter's love. Kinda like the female OVER THE TOP, in a way.

The film takes this already mind-blowing premise and piles on more and more inspired lunacy at a breakneck pace: Bouncer Ving Rhames has a tiny monkey sidekick and imbues his performance with a genuine artistry that surely isn't called for:

Armand Assante is wondering how the hell he got here (hint- this was his follow-up to JUDGE DREDD):

there's a Jewish stripper named 'Ariel Sharon' who has a crush on Steven Spielberg, Demi strips with a moody intensity that tells me she thought she had a shot at Oscar gold, and all of this somehow germinates into a searing exposé of Big Sugar!

The courtroom tableaux are worth the price of admission alone:

"Your honor, my ex-husband is a THIEF. That hardly qualifies him to raise a seven-year old CHILD."

"Neithah does bein' a mothuh without a JOB!" [bangs gavel]

There's the obligatory post-shower towel dance, and I have to give points to STRIPTEASE for including it, because I think it only was actually obligatory from 1982-1994.

Oh...and how could I forget: Burt Reynolds.

Reynolds plays Congressman Dilbeck (or, Congressman 'Dildo,' as he eloquently states in one exchange) as if he is constantly drunk and/or mentally disabled. Kind of a 'chicken or the egg' question here is: 'Was Dilbeck written as a psychotic rummy, or did Reynolds just show up drunk and they took it from there?'

Don't answer that. He's even involved in a barfight, which I think must've been part of his contract since HOOPER. Reynolds is doddering around, covered in Vaseline, muttering things like "We can talk about anything you want, as long as you're nekkid."

As time has told, Reynolds is not your garden variety pervert (i.e., see my scholarly papers on the topics of goosing, necrophilia, et al. as presented in STROKER ACE and RENT-A-COP), yet STRIPTEASE kinda seeks to reduce and simplify his myriad depravities to level of a Saturday morning cartoon villain:

He likes having sexy ladies around.

He likes seizing sexy ladies.

He likes dancing with sexy ladies in his boxers, which may as well have big hearts on them.

I posit that this reductive, superficial view of Burt Reynolds perversion is dangerous and, on behalf of Liza Minnelli goosage, I daresay irresponsible. Though the Vaseline scene is pretty incredible in its commitment to loopiness, so I'll let it slide this time.

And speaking of Saturday morning cartoons, the finale involves slow-motion leaping and a denouement that has absolutely zero deviation from that of a SCOOBY-DOO episode.

All of this, naturally, contributes to the film receiving high marks from me. (Also see: DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE).

In the end, STRIPTEASE is a serious drama with a smattering of light-hearted social satire. Er, allow me to submit a revision to that statement: Demi Moore thinks STRIPTEASE is a serious drama, and that ensures that its heart is, somehow, in the right place. It is her performance that gives it that patented Golan-Globus level of sincerity. I guess that's why it works. My only caveat––instead of $12.5 million, they probably should have paid Demi, say, whatever they gave Mario van Peebles for RAPPIN' or Lucinda Dickey for NINJA III...


J.D. said...

I hate this film with a burning fashion because I read the novel that it is, *ahem*, loosely based on! Carl Hiaasen writes these wacky crime novels all set in Florida with each other taking on some societial ill that plagues the state - imagine the Coen brothers with an Elmore Leonard chaser and you have an idea of the man's writing style. He writes some the most gut-bustingly entertainingly wild prose and Andrew Bergman was just the wrong guy to adapt it. I would have either picked the Coens or the folks who made MIAMI BLUES. It needed a much darker, more satirical edge that Bergman, at least this time out, was just not capable of. But I can see why they picked STRIPTEASE as it is Hiaasen's most mainstream novel. Personally, I'd love to see someone tackle TOURIST SEASON or DOUBLE WHAMMY. Both are awesome books that are definitely worth tracking down used on Amazon...

Sean Gill said...

Wow- well I can certainly see why it'd rub you the wrong way. I do recall seeing the "based on the novel by" credit and imagining a similar situation to something like GYMKATA claiming that it was based on a work of literature- but damn!- the idea that the dopey extravaganza that is STRIPTEASE is based off of a razor sharp satire is certainly a troubling one!

Tempest said...

I thought this film had potential, but for me, it just does not work. I remember that Demi's salary made history--no other actress had ever been paid $12.5 million. I remember all the talk about how hard she trained and her implants, which she later had removed. The Burt Reynolds character was supposed to try and rape Erin at knife-point, but test screen audiences hated that, so they took it out .