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Film / Burlesque

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Sean: So, is Ali short for anything?
Ali: Oh, yeah, it's short for Alice.
Sean: Alice, hm? Well... welcome to Wonderland.

A 2010 American musical film written and directed by Steven Antin, starring Cher and Christina Aguilera.

The Burlesque Lounge has its best days behind it, and club owner Tess is struggling to keep the place afloat. Meanwhile, new waitress Ali is a small-town girl who's just moved to L.A. to fulfill her dreams of becoming a star. The last thing Tess needs is a pushy upstart with no technical experience at dance making a fuss, and the last thing Ali needs is a hard-ass boss who dismisses her out of hand. Luckily both are very determined at getting what they want...

This film contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Cam Gigandet and Peter Gallagher both previously starred on the television series, The OC. Cam as Kevin Volchok and Peter as Sandy Cohen.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: “Wagon Wheel Watusi.”
  • Ambiguously Bi: Ali, considering her reaction to the burlesque dance numbers and the tension between her and her rival Nikki.
    • Also, the DJ Mark from Georgia's wedding who keeps looking flirtatiously at both Coco and Sean.
  • Amicable Exes: Tess and Vince are friendly despite being divorced, even through the massive financial stresses caused by jointly owning the club.
  • Ascended Fangirl: Ali.
  • Badass Boast:
    Tess: There will be no Fade Out. This is not the end. I'm down now but I'll be standing tall again! Times are hard but, I was built tough...I'm gonna show you all what I'm made of!
  • Betty and Veronica: A literal hair-colored version of this between Nikki (a brunette) and Ali (a blonde) over Marcus.
    • Also, a gender-swapped version of this happens between Marcus (Ali's love interest) and Jack (Ali's roommate), both male competitors over Ali.
    • Plus, Jack's self-absorbed fiancée Natalie and his roommate Ali fit this trope respectively.
  • Break the Haughty: In addition to her car window with a crowbar.
  • Brick Joke: Earlier in the film, Ali mistakenly believes Jack is gay due to the eyeliner he wears for his job at the burlesque longue. Later, when they end up in bed together, Ali comments that "he's definitely not gay".
  • Burlesque: Obviously, the film features a club with such performances. Christina Aguilera and Cher star in the movie.
  • Camp Gay: Sean.
  • Camp Straight: Jack, much to Ali's surprise as she had mistaken the woman in a photo next to him to be a "sister" instead of "fiancée" and remarks that he wears a lot of eye liner (only because of his job). Lampshaded by Ali.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Air rights.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Christina Aguilera: The Musical. Need I say more?
  • Cover Song: The soundtrack includes a mix of original and cover songs.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Natalie. Inevitable, really.
    • May share the spot for Alpha Bitch with Nikki considering what we learn about her.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of the cast at least want to be, but the standouts are Stanley Tucci as Sean and Alan Cumming as Alexis. Ali also gets a standout reply to one of Nikki's comments.
    Nikki: She's just a tacky farm girl from Iowa.
    Ali: And we know a cow when we see one.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Marcus. Ali does slowly warm up to him, but she remains cautious (and very uncomfortable about his relationship with Nikki, when all of a sudden they are Just Friends).
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Jack gets drunk after he breaks up with Natalie. It's obviously painful for him to end things, but he is also now free to pursue Ali, so letting go of his old relationship isn't too painful.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Ali knows what she wants and isn't shy about doing everything possible to get it in a manner that borders on Determinator. She knows that she wants to be on stage at Burlesque and is insanely determined to get there, forcing Tess to watch her audition and then alternately browbeating and pleading with her until she gets the job. And then she's just as bloody-minded about practicing to be the best she can be.
  • Expy: In Todd in the Shadows' review, he noted that Stanley Tucci is basically playing the same character he did in The Devil Wears Prada.
  • Foreshadowing: When Jack first plays his piano in his apartment, he is playing an instrumental of 'Bound to You' - a song which Ali later sings in the show.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Played with. Sean is gay but doesn't mind the occasional flirty banter and slow dancing with Tess despite their Incompatible Orientation.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Tess after spending all afternoon being condescended to by a bank manager. Admittedly not an entirely unsympathetic circumstance.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Tess and Sean.
  • It's All About Me: Jack's fiancée Natalie is all about this. Lampshaded by Sean who has to remind Jack that every time he talks to his fiancée, she gas to make everything about her.
  • Lady Drunk: Nikki has the still-youthful appearance of a Hard-Drinking Party Girl, but her personality is this all the way.
  • Last Het Romance: Implied between Tess and Sean, who reminisce on their friendship and how she fell in love with him and they had one drunk night together.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Should be expected, given the film's title and plot.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Jack. Oh, Jack.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Even though they broke up before the obligatory sex scene, Ali breaks up with Jack because she believes he was still in love with Natalie. And wouldn't you know it, they get back together.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Ali thought Jack was gay at first, due to the eyeliner he wears for his job. Becomes a Brick Joke.
  • Missing Mom: In one scene, Ali reveals to Jack that her mom died when she was a little girl.
  • Morning Sickness: Tess finds Georgia in the bathroom stall throwing up, revealing she's pregnant and will have to temporarily give up dancing at the club. She complains about the name being inaccurate, considering "it hits you at every freaking moment of the day".
  • Naïve Newcomer: Ali is enthusiastic but doesn't at first know how the big city or the business works. Lampshaded when Tess tells her "you won't be the new girl forever".
  • No Bisexuals:
    • Sean is gay but that doesn't stop him exchanging in pseudo-flirtatious talk with Tess, and the two sharing a dance together on the dance floor. As they discuss which teams he bats for, nobody considers "the purple team" and bisexuality is nonexistence In-Universe.
    • At first, Ali believes Jack is gay as he wears eyeliner and she mistakes his pretty fiancée for his sister which he clears up quickly. Later when they succumb to their romantic feelings for one another, Ali believes that he's definetly not gay while they're in bed together. Not once does consider the possibility of him being bi.
  • Product Placement: Famous Amos cookies, rather prominently in one scene.
    • Patron Tequila product placement in several scenes. The brand also featured in classic Dirty Love (2005), starring Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Steve Antin got the idea for this film after watching Christina Aguilera perform as a featured vocalist for the Pussycat Dolls in 2002.
  • Romantic False Lead: Marcus and Natalie.
  • Saving the Orphanage: Well, a burlesque house actually.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Tess. Nikki somewhat by the end.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: At the start of the film, Ali quits her job after her boss refuses to pay her the appropriate amount of money for her and her coworker's hard work on their waitressing job (he still hasn't paid her for last month as well).
    • Nikki quits her job and drives home drunk after putting up with Tess's negligence of her jealousy towards Ali.
    • Ali leaves after Jack's fiancée Natalie returns home and in the ensuing fight, believes that they're still together and he lied to her about it.
    • Ali leaves Marcus, after discovering his plans to sell the burlesque for money.
  • Shout-Out:
    • After Ali's debut as the lead, she asks Jack what he thinks about her outfit. When he stumbles over words, she says "Jack, we're friends for Christ's sake. It's not like we're brother and sister," to which Jack replies "No, we certainly are not." These lines are modern inspired by Jane Austen's novel "Emma," when Mr. Knightley asks Emma to dance and she says "Indeed, I will. You have shown that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it improper," to which Mr. Knightley replies "Brother and sister! - no indeed."
    • The first instrumental Ali dances to during her audition is the background music from "Nasty Naughty Boy," performed by Christina Aguilera from her album Back To Basics. This tune was replaced in the DVD version.
    • When Tess sarcastically asks her ex-husband if he also told Marcus she has a tattoo on her ass, this is actually a reference to her infamous visible tattoo shown in the see-through outfit Cher sported in her music video "If I Could Turn Back Time".
    • When Sean asks Ali what's her full name and she replies "Alice", he tells her "Welcome to Wonderland".
    • The choreography for "Express" involving the chairs is a blatant homage to Bob Fosse's choreography for Cabaret.
  • Slut-Shaming: Sean calls Nikki "slut" behind her back, due to reputation. She hears him and calls him out on it and he tells her he thought she was out if the building when he said it.
  • Staying with Friends: At first, Ali moves to Los Angeles and it seems like a promising career move... until she gets robbed the couple nights over, prompting her to stay over at Jack's place.
  • Take That!: One of the performers makes it clear to Ali that the burlesque is not a strip club and takes offense when she mistakes it for one.
  • Team Mom/Team Dad: Sean and Tess - but not in the way you'd first assume. Tess is the disciplinarian, the one who calls the shots and keeps the club going, making her better fit the Team Dad role. While Sean is the one to fuss over the girls and support them, making him more like a Team Mom.
  • Team Prima Donna: Nikki fancies herself as the Alpha Bitch of the dancers, and expects to often show up late or drunk to work without consequence.
  • Tears of Joy: After Nikki cuts the music and Ali sings for the first time, she is quite literally crying with joy backstage after Tess says that she's going to build a show around her.
  • Technician Versus Performer: When Ali auditions for Tess, even though Tess admits that they have access to far better dancers, Ali puts all her heart into dancing and is clearly loving being on stage despite her lack of technique. She works hard and her dancing noticeably improves as well.
  • True Companions: Subverted with the people from the first. Jack claims that everyone looks out for each other, but Ali is quick to contradict him. However, he is actually right, as is proven over the course of the movie. Tess is fiercely loyal to her employees and will take care of them no matter what, even letting Nicki back in after she really deserved to be kicked to the curb with a very sharp-toed boot, and despite the squabbling backstage, once you're in, you are basically family with all the bad and the good that that entails at one point one of the girls gets married and the rest of the girls are her bridesmaids. Learning to become part of this extended family is part of Ali's character arc.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Ali and Jack so much. It turns into Belligerent Sexual Tension when Jack becomes jealous as Ali starts to spend time with Marcus, cautiously warming up to him.
  • Villainous Gentrification: The LA burlesque theater risks being shut down and replaced with a skyscaper and condos. However, the conflict is easily resolved by Ali and Tess of the theater by convincing the condo owner to spare their theater since the skyscraper would obstruct the view from his condos.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Tess finds one of the dancers in the bathroom stall throwing up. She tells her, "Please don't tell me you have the flu." The dancer gives Tess a meaningful look, after which Tess says, "Please tell me you have the flu."
  • Welcome to the Big City: Ali has trouble finding work and her motel room is robbed including all her money when she first arrives in Los Angeles.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Through the film, we see Georgia get married and have a little pregnant belly. By the final dance number, her belly is visibly smaller as if she given birth months earlier and her husband and child's nowhere to be seen. Though odds are both are at home.


Video Example(s):


"It was that easy"

Todd in the Shadows is damn near speechless at how easy the money problem from Burlesque, which was established from very early, was resolved.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / AntiClimax

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