Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Reverend’s Preview: Cher, Back on the Big Screen
That will all change this Wednesday, when the seemingly ageless superstar returns in the musical-drama Burlesque. Cher appears opposite contemporary diva Christina Aguilera as Tess, the proprietor of a Los Angeles nightclub dedicated to the traditional theatrical art form of the film’s title. A big-name cast including Eric Dane, Alan Cumming, Peter Gallagher, Kristen Bell and Stanley Tucci lends support.
Gay men I’ve spoken with who have seen the film’s trailer are very excited about Burlesque, but they also voiced suspicions that it could end up being more like the laughably bad Showgirls (1995) than 2002’s Best Picture, Chicago, which the movie seems to be emulating. Cher’s surgically-preserved physical appearance doesn’t seem to be helping matters.
I was able to hear a few songs from the movie soundtrack in advance and, whereas Aguilera’s exuberant R&B vocals caused my cats to flee the room, Cher sounds as good as ever. Interestingly, Burlesque is Cher’s first true movie musical in over 40 years of film appearances. I’m not counting 1967’s Good Times, a bizarre docu-comedy with songs in which Cher and her then-husband Sonny Bono play themselves. The spotlight is clearly on Bono but Cher’s playful personality shines through and won audiences over. (Good Times and five other notable films starring Cher, including Moonstruck and the underrated Mermaids, were just released on DVD in a fabulous boxed set entitled Cher: The Film Collection.)
Cher primarily worked on her music and on television during the 1970’s. In the early 80’s, however, a trio of well-received dramatic turns in Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Silkwood (in which she played a lesbian fighting nuclear plant safety hazards alongside Meryl Streep) and Mask made her a movie star. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1988 for her charming performance in Moonstruck.
Teaming Cher and Aguilera in Burlesque seems like a great idea on paper, and they complement each other well visually in the footage I’ve seen. The movie is written and directed by Steven Antin, whose past credits include Chasing Papi, Inside Monkey Zetterland and producing TV’s The Pussycat Dolls Present. Cher sings two songs on the soundtrack: the production number “Welcome to Burlesque” and the more reflective ballad “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.”
Will Burlesque mark a high point or a low one on Cher’s cinematic resume? Find out at a theatre near you this week.
UPDATE: Burlesque is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.