…or, apparently, Neo-Burlesque. Hey, that’s what the IMDb said.
Narrowing it down to a top five is pretty much impossible. Am I more confused about the age gap between Cher & Kristen Bell, and how they were meant in some way to be rivals and also pseudo business partners? Or am I more confused about the alleged involvement of the Squirrel Nut Zippers *Orchestra*? Or why we never got to meet the cute Asian bartender and instead only interacted with the tool wannabe composer bartender?
I have so many questions! It’s hard even to say flat-out that it’s a terrible movie, because is it really a movie when it doesn’t have a plot? At least it has musical numbers, which means that more happens in it than happened in Hereafter, but they are all bizarre! They are definitely not burlesque. I am from Seattle. I saw the world premiere of A Wink and a Smile. I know from burlesque. One dance with a fan does not a burlesque club make. Or even a neo-burlesque club.
Musical numbers involving the chairs & stripey knee socks do imply a bit of slight burlesque effort (and, when you add the bartenders and their bowler hats, plus the opening Welcome number, suggests an extreme devotion to Bob Fosse), but most don’t even pretend. Christina Aguilera does a torch song while wearing a green dress, and I was truly concerned she was going to clutch at her chest one too many times and pull the damn thing off altogether.
The most transparently stuck-on musical scene comes from Cher. Her character is leaving the club and the sound guy calls down: “Hey, I found the music. Do you want to run through that number?” She’s a trooper. Of *course* she’ll run through it, an anvilicious song called “Last Of Me”. As in “You Ain’t Seen The”.
But how does Christina get to the stage in the first place? She flees to LA from Iowa (in a strangely ominous sequence, but don’t worry, the folks in her past are never heard from again), and then she wanders all over the city looking for a job as a dancer or a backup singer or whatever. She pauses outside a burlesque club where a cute dancer in stripey knee socks winks at her, at which point I get all excited thinking this might be a queer lady movie hooray!
Once inside the club, she looks longingly at the stage. She spends a lot of time wearing the exact same expression of longing, but unfortunately, she’s dreaming of being on stage herself, not of getting down with one of the lovely dancer ladies. This is TRAGIC. Instead there is Romance and possibly a Love Triangle involving the Tool Bartender and a Tool Real Estate Agent. What a waste of ladies in knee socks I tell you what.
The movie also wastes the beautiful and talented Dianna Agron, who we see about long enough for the audience to recognize her from “Glee”, and who we are supposed to dislike because she’s Christina’s rival for Tool Bartender. Except I’m totally not buying that she’s done anything wrong. From what I can see, she got engaged to a jerk who wouldn’t move with her to NYC when she got a job, and then he did a totally half-assed job of breaking up with her over the phone. Really, if he thinks he broke the engagement in the call we see in the movie, I have news for him: he didn’t. Which makes him a cowardly Tool Bartender.
Basically, I didn’t care about any of the people the movie seemed to want me to. I wanted to know the cute sound guy’s story, and I want to know SO MUCH MORE about Stanley Tucci because I am pretty sure he is the perfect man, and his relationship with Cher was adorable. And I’d like more Alan Cumming just on principle, and maybe a bit more Peter Gallagher because his eyebrows are a life form unto themselves.
Let’s be honest: I’d just like all of those people in a different movie. One with, perhaps, a plot. And less weird music. And where practicing dance routines involves a little more work than twitching around the club while waitressing, or doing this flippy thing with your wrist when bopping down the street.
Maybe I just want to see an entirely different bad movie.
My favorite thing about this particular bad dance movie, though, is that so many of the characters had realistically terrible tattoos. 30 seconds on Google suggests at least one of them is real, which is kind of perfect. My second favorite thing is when Kristen Bell’s character refers to Christina as having “mutant lungs”.
The girl can sing like nobody’s business, it’s true. But that does not a movie make.