Andrew Bergman, USA, 1996)


Normally, I try not to be one of those melancholic, nostalgic reviewers who perpetually announces the sorry decline of cinema. But watching Striptease left me feeling very morbid. It is truly one of the dreariest, most asinine films I have ever seen.

Demi Moore plays Erin, who works in a bar called the Eager Beaver but prefers to be called a dancer rather than a stripper. In fact, she is more like a saint. When not pining for the little daughter who languishes in the hands of her villainous ex-husband (Robert Patrick), Erin flounces around with a hair dryer practising her supposedly classy strip routines.

Writer-director Andrew Bergman (The Freshman, 1996) has devoted his career to the difficult art of light comedy. Striptease is his latest and least successful attempt to whip up a soufflé of pathos, criminal intrigue, mildly raunchy humour and pop culture pastiche.

Each new character seems to take the script in a different and disconcerting direction – whether the lascivious Congressman Dilbeck (Burt Reynolds at his weirdest) or Shad (Ving Rhames), the bouncer with a heart of gold.

Nothing in this film works. It presents an erotic milieu without sexiness, and a mystery thriller bereft of excitement. Demi's single-mother pathos is not in the least bit convincing or affecting. And Bergman's uneasy nod in the direction of right-on consciousness (feminism and class solidarity) is downright embarrassing.

No wonder he plasters the video shop location with posters for all his earlier, better movies.

© Adrian Martin August 1996

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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