It is a tale as old as time that some products emulate current trends or fads, to appeal to fickle audience’s tastes. This strategy has its risks of backfiring, even if the products or ideas were in development far before the banner-holders of such trends existed. If they are beaten to the punch, they risk getting relegated to an ‘also ran’. In 1996, a darkly comedic novel spent three years in development had to endure close competition to stand out in the film adaptation of Striptease.
After losing her job, and custody of her daughter to her nefarious ex, Darrell. Erin has little choice but to take up exotic dancing at the Eager Beaver, a strip club in Florida. This club has its fair share of regulars, most notably a bigshot politician, Senator Dilbeck. He quickly develops an infatuation with Erin and may also have a shady side. This infatuation is not lost on Erin as she tries manipulating Dilbeck into helping her win the custody of her daughter, but is she playing with fire? As Erin gets embroiled in a chaotic web of Kidnappings, corruption, and even murder, as bodies are discovered in the Everglades.
Obviously, due to its subject manner, audiences (unfamiliar with the book) may equate Striptease to the previous year’s release of Showgirls. If you were expecting another sobering and serious take, you would be surprised. The film takes more of a light-hearted approach at Erin’s situation, bringing comedy to the drama and sensuality. This is not to say that the film is mocking as the plights and drama of the dancer’s lives are reflected, as well as the camaraderie. Striptease more pokes fun at the caricatures that inhabit Erin’s world. Notably the Senator, Dilbeck one of the main instigators of the events on screen. The film also sheds some light on what Erin’s deadbeat ex is doing, particularly with their daughter, and Erin’s in-laws remain a reliable source of humour.`
A lot of recognisable names are present to bring the novel to the big screen. Moore’s real-life daughter Rumer Willis is an unsurprisingly good fit as Erin’s daughter, seeing her roped into the schemes of her father, played by Robert Partick is a treat, to say the least. Even Ving Rhames appears here as bodyguard Shad. Naturally, Reynolds feels so much at home in the lecherous and corrupt Dilbeck, providing the experience that will serve him a couple of years later in his role in the Grand Theft Auto franchise. And the main star, Demi Moore, manages to ground the reality of Erin’s plight versus the aforementioned characters. The soundtrack is also distinctive with recognisable hits from Blondie, Prince, and Annie Lennox, among others. They are used effectively, especially in the dance scenes.
There is a breezier air to Striptease that sets it apart from its coincidental completion. It is as if Showgirls and Birdcage were combined into a dark and wicked film that is surprising in its balancing act of political corruption, family drama, and exotic dancing. Striptease equals an enthralling caper with colourful characters and good performances from a lot of recognisable names. If you initially start pre-judging this film, Striptease shows that appearances can be deceiving.
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