What the Soundtrack to BURLESQUE Reveals About the Movie

Burlesque is that delicious fat-free, sugar-free, calorie-less, ab-enhancing Thanksgiving pie that gay men all around the world have been eagerly waiting for. Ever since news broke last year about the studio getting ready to bake this treat, homos have been salivating all over the blogosphere about the idea of being cut a slice. And who can blame them? It has all the essential ingredients: Stanley Tucci reprising his snarky yet simpatico grandpa-gay role from The Devil Wears Prada, Veronica Mars, McSteamy, and the Abercrombie-esque villain that made the first Twilight movie slightly watchable (except this time dipped in baby oil and wearing nothing but suspenders, a bowtie, and guyliner). As far as spices go, throw in excess amounts of sequins, corsets, slutty choreography, radio-ready pop music, and a musical theater modified version of the Coyote Ugly screenplay. Then there’s the crumble – the delectable topping that you scrape off when you want just a little taste: Christina Aguilera. But while all these sound like the makings of an irresistible guilty-pleasure, they’d be nothing without the crust: the base and the foundation that holds all of these ingredients together – the saving grace without which this would be more disaster than dessert: Cher.


This is what the trailer tells us about the film so far (set to be released on Wednesday, waging a box office war against Harry Potter, Disney’s Tangled and the Anne Hathaway/Mr. Taylor Swift romantic drama Love and Other Drugs): Aguilera plays a small town girl with an ugly wig who travels to L.A. and lands a job as a cocktail waitress at a glitzy nightclub for people who prefer watching Moulin Rouge over porn. The eager Aguilera decides that she, too, wants to sing on stage but doesn’t know if she has it in her to be in the spotlight. She harasses the club owner (Cher) as she’s applying collagen enhancing ruby red lipstick, and finds inspiration from the shirtless bartender. Before we know it, she’s doing an Ashlee Simpson-during-her SNL-fuck-up inspired dance routine on stage while Cher judges and Stanley Tucci is just being Stanley Tucci. She fails to impress Cher, but all that changes point five seconds later when she belts and scales her register and everyone acts like they’ve never heard Christina try to prove her worth this hard before. A montage then shows everyone in awe of the singer, as she rises to fame and makes out with the aforementioned bartender (still shirtless) on a couch. All of a sudden, Aguilera is the prima donna of the club with all the rest of the Pussycat Dolls consigned to the role of being her backup dancers.

As per most musicals, the soundtrack serves as a plot summary to the entire thing. After listening to it once and based on the order of the songs, this is what I can tell you this movie is going to be about:

1. Something’s Got A Hold On Me – In this Etta James cover, Aguilera will be seen in her small rural hometown having dreams of grandeur. Like in the beginning of Britney Spears’ Crossroads, there’s a good chance she’ll be dancing on top of her bed in her parent’s house singing into a hairbrush with just her underwear on. The song will continue as she steps onto a one-way bus to Los Angeles and she’ll sing as she stares longingly out the window and finds her way to the city of big lights.

2. Welcome To Burlesque – The first of the two Cher tracks on the soundtrack, this one’s title pretty much explains itself. This will be the song that Cher will be performing in a sailor hat and hooker boots doing leg swings over chairs and boys who literally killed to be dancers in this movie, while Aguilera first steps inside the “Burlesque” lounge and falls in love with it. It’ll inspire her to take a job there while confirming that Cher is still the baddest bitch in town.

3. Tough Lover – Ok, confession: the only reason I know what this song is actually about is because it’s the one they use in the trailer when Cher discovers Christina can sing. So that’s what this is: the song that Christina will belt until the veins in her temples pop out and makes Marley go hide under a tree to die from all the screeching. We haven’t heard Christina scale octaves like this since her days of singing empowering ballads for ugly people.

4. But I Am A Good Girl – Uh oh, looks like Christina has made it! In this song, she’s being showered with designer dresses and jewelry. A hardly veiled knock-off of Rainbow High from the musical “Evita,” this track has Aguilera doing her absolute best Madonna-doing-Marilyn-Monroe impression. And like in “Evita,” this song is the turning point where the small town girl is all of a sudden a major celebrity.

5. A Guy What Takes His Time – Now that Christina is the new “it” girl of the club, she needs a romantic interest, right? This mid-tempo jazz number signifies her discovery of Cam Gigandet’s character, a human Ken doll who’s dressed a little bit too much like Joel Grey in Cabaret. The message of this song is that she wants to see if their connection is real before she embarks on her maiden voyage with him, but luckily the song is under three minutes long, meaning that the waiting period is about the same as it is when going on a first date with someone you meet on D-List.

6. Express – This song is clearly the one that’s going to make Christina go from local celebrity to national superstar. Big bad McSteamy will enter as the evil and enticing talent scout trying to steal Christina away from the club and put her on the main Hollywood stage. He’ll watch her shake her feathered ass while he turns into Ursula the sea witch and Christina uses a quill to sign her voice and soul away to him.

7. You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me – Written by hit-making songwriter Diane Warren (Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” and Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me”), the second Cher song finds the legendary diva warbling about how down in the dumps she is. She’s sad because Christina will most likely have betrayed her and sided with McSteamy, saying that the club needs a “younger” and “fresher” Madame – something that despite pounds of Botox, Cher can’t provide. This will prompt her to have a Regina George-esque “But I like, discovered her” monologue, and she’ll find herself lost on the streets of L.A. feeling like all she’s worked for in her life has been taken away by a watered-down Lady GaGa wannabe and a TV doctor. This is also a song that applies heavily to Cher’s own life, as rumors are swirling about that at the conclusion of her Vegas show in February, she’ll go on her 97th international farewell tour and release a brand new album.

8. Bound To You – And since Cher was sad, Christina has to be too because Christina can’t ever not try to out-compete a fellow diva (remember when she signed with Coke after Britney was already the Pepsi girl?). This song has Christina crooning about feeling trapped under her new management, making her realize that throwing Regina … er, I mean Cher … under the bus may not have been the best idea. Either that or it accompanies a tragic S&M rape scene, which judging by Christina’s “Not Myself Tonight” music video this spring, does not seem that farfetched.

9. Show Me How You Burlesque – Here comes the showstopper! Everyone is happy again! Cher is back in the club and Christina is still the reigning queen of the spotlight! I don’t know if it counts as plagiarism when you’re ripping off your own former hits, but this song has Christina doing an excellent revamping of her previous Lady Marmalade. It’s also a less dangerous but trashier Cell Block Tango, where Christina will probably be wearing a fedora with a diamond encrusted thong and knee high boots she borrowed from the Pretty Woman storage closet. This is the song that Christina says ends the movie and “will have you leave the theater dancing and in a good mood.” Easily the catchiest song on the whole record.

10. The Beautiful People – Ah, the credits song. This one has a much more contemporary feel than the rest of the tracks. Mixing contemporary pop with a sprinkling of the flapper-chic music that composes the rest of the soundtrack, this song would have been a far better choice for the lead single (rather than “Express”). It’s a cute, upbeat song that will inspire at least half the audience to go buy enough glitter to bathe themselves in while they choreograph their own Fosse routines to it.

There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about Burlesque. That being said, it looks and seems absurd enough to be majorly enjoyable. The soundtrack is fun and brings Christina more into her comfort zone than Bionic, the horrendous “comeback” album she released earlier this year that garnered little to no sales and even fewer positive reviews. While this movie will most likely not be a box office champion, listening to this soundtrack has secured my ticket for tomorrow’s opening.

And while I may have been completely off with my predictions about what this film is actually going to be about, a few things I know for certain: 1) Stanley Tucci is only one Kurt Russell away from playing the gay best friend to every main character in Silkwood, 2) Cam Gigandet will make 98% of this film’s audience’s pants a little tighter, 3) It’s going to be better than Glitter, 4) The producers weren’t smart enough to have Cher and Christina sing a duet, 5) Cher will be a shoe-in to perform “You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” at this year’s Academy Awards and 6) Director and writer Steve Antwin, better known as the fat kid from The Goonies, grew up to be EXTREMELY homosexual.

MY NIGHT WITH KATE WINSLET

“Don’t be freaked out that I roll my own cigarettes,” Kate Winslet tells me as we huddle under a small awning to avoid the Manhattan raindrops. “I know, it’s very European of me,” she continues as she reaches out her hand and offers me one. She then pulls out a box of matches from her sleek and elegant black trench coat, sticks her cigarette in her mouth, and brings the flame to her face, putting a momentary spotlight on her signature beauty mark above the right corner of her lip.

I’m not one to be starstruck. Living in New York and working various jobs around Manhattan has made seeing celebrities just part of my job. At Estee Lauder, I sold make up to Christina Aguilera. At Starbucks, I made cappucinos for Marc Jacobs, Anna Wintour, and Jodie Foster all in the same day. Having an entertainment blog has made me fortunate enough to interview and even befriend some of my favorite musicians. The closest I’ve ever been to being intimidated by a celebrity’s presence was two summers ago when I interviewed Anne Hathaway at the Shakespeare in the Park opening night gala. It was two a.m. and we had both taken a little too much advantage of the open bar. The impromptu questions I was asking were a bit slurred and I had a momentary panic attack that I would make an ass out of myself. But in the end, her not so sober state balanced mine out and the interview ended up as a success.

When I was nine years old, I was living in Germany. My father used to be an international correspondent for Newsweek so my childhood was spent moving from one European country to the other. The year was 1997 and a little movie called Titanic had just been released. My girlfriend’s mother (my first in-law, if you will) was a huge fan of director James Cameron due to the sequels he had made to Alien and Terminator. She decided, therefore, to take Nathalie and me to the theater to see his newest film endeavor.

The only problem was the movie was in German. I was taking the basic level of German at my American school, but my knowledge was certainly not extensive enough to understand a three-hour period film. Regardless, I sat in the movie theater with my bucket of popcorn and watched the world’s most epic cinematic love story unfold before my eyes.

The language barrier soon became a non-issue, as I immediately fell in love with everyone that graced the screen. I didn’t need to understand what Jack and Rose were saying to know that they were from two different worlds and shared a Romeo and Juliet-esque forbidden love. It didn’t matter that I didn’t understand the iceberg warnings because I was familiar with the history of the ship and knew what was coming. It didn’t even matter that I didn’t understand what Jack was saying to Rose right before he froze to death because I knew what it was. A few years later, I made my Polish grandma watch the VHS tape with me, and even though she didn’t understand the language either, she still cried through half of it and said it was the best motion picture she’d ever seen. How many movies can honestly make such claims?

Titanic changed the way I viewed movies. It was the first blockbuster film I saw and today remains on my short list of all-time favorite films. The memories I have associated with it are endless, making it a true time portal to my childhood.

What I loved most about the movie, though, was Rose. Kate Winslet, only twenty-years-old at the time of filming, had me completely enamored from that first iconic moment when she steps out of the towncar and swoops her massive ascot hat to the side to reveal her fiery red hair and blasé attitude toward “the ship of dreams.”

When the English movie theater in Berlin started playing the movie, I made everyone I know come see it with me. My mother, my brother, my piano teacher, my friends. I became obsessed, with my walls covered floor to ceiling in magazine cut-outs and posters of Ms. Winslet.

From there on out, I always went to see every movie Kate Winslet was in. No matter where I was in the world, I was always at the movie theater on opening day when she had a new film. Whether it was a serious sociopolitical drama like The Life of David Gale and Little Children or a period piece like Finding Neverland or a romantic comedy like The Holiday, I have contributed at least one ticket to the opening weekend box office revenue of every film on Kate’s extensive resume.

In 2001, Kate lent her voice to an animated adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. The film was released solely in the United Kingdom, and stayed that way for a few years (I recommend you check it out now as the holiday season comes up, as it is currently streaming on Instant Netflix). In this film, Kate tried out something new and sang the theme song: a gorgeous ballad entitled “What If”. Imagine then my disappointment when I would request the song on American top 40 radio, only to have DJs laugh at me and say “you mean the actress?” before they hung up. To compensate, I (living in New York already at this point) used my allowance to have a copy of the soundtrack specially shipped to me from a record store in London so that I could hear Kate sing.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to meet her. What would I say? Would she be a total bitch and shatter my adolescent vision? To be honest, I was scared. I’d always seen interviews with her where she seemed completely down to earth, but what if that was just an act? What if I met her and she was cold and rude and stuck up and mean? Would I be obliged to cross my name off the list of her top fans?

Fast forward to tonight. Thursday, November 4, 2010. I’m standing outside of a restaurant in the East Village, talking to my mother on the phone. I look to my right and strolling down the block is none other than Kate Winslet. I immediately hang up and shove my cell phone in my pocket, as I look to see if this really is who I think it is coming in my direction. She’s walking by herself, an umbrella in one hand and texting on her Blackberry with the other.

“Excuse me, Ms. Winslet,” I say as I awkwardly approach her. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to disturb you, but I saw Titanic when I was nine-years-old and ever since then, whenever somebody has asked me if I could have dinner with anyone in the world, you’ve always been my answer. So I couldn’t just let you walk by without saying hello.”

“You’re too sweet!” she responds with her fabulous British accent. “My friends aren’t here yet and I was just about to smoke a cigarette. Would you like to join me?” She ushers me over to a little alcove on the side of the street near the restaurant. She sparks the flame of her match and my childhood fantasy.

We begin to small-talk and she starts asking me about my life. What I do for a living, am I dating anyone, what did I study in college, what do I want to do in life, etc. I answer all of her questions as she smiles and listens, making little jokes here and there and rubbing my arm to comfort me when I tell her my boyfriend works on a cruise ship and I don’t get to see him very often anymore. “That must be hard for you, you must miss him very much,” she says.

The conversation then turns to her. “I read you’re doing a film adaptation of God of Carnage, is that true?” I ask. “You must be a real devoted fan if you know that already,” she replies with a chuckle. She goes on to tell me about the film, but mentions that she is shooting another movie first: Contagion. She tells me that she’s flying to Chicago on Monday for a couple of weeks to film, but that she can’t give me too many details about the movie because it’s “a very rare circumstance where I’m sworn to complete secrecy about the project.” She does mention that it is an ensemble piece and that she’s thrilled to be working with director Steven Soderbergh (upon research later, I learned that the film is an action thriller about the outbreak of a deadly virus that threatens to wipe out earth’s human population. Winslet plays a doctor contracted to help find a cure). “So many times you see movies and you wonder why the people making it made certain, well frankly, shitty choices. I’ve never had that experience watching Steven’s work and it is just such an honor to be working with him.” Winslet’s genuine excitement for the film makes her sound like an actress who has just landed her first big role.

“So you saw Titanic when you were nine? How old are you now?” Winslet asks me. “I’m twenty-two,” I respond. “Fuck, that makes me feel old” she says through her smile.

When I ask her what her favorite role she’s ever played is, she doesn’t hesitate to say Hanna Schmitz in The Reader “because it was by far the most challenging part I’ve ever had to play.” (Sidenote: Winslet won her first best actress Academy Award for this film ten minutes prior to my 21st birthday. Needless to say, I had a monumental celebration). “Have you seen that film?” she asks me. Have I seen it? Honey, I own the DVD of every movie you’ve ever made. “Yes, I have,” I respond.

I chime in my two cents and tell her my most loved character of hers is Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, my all-time favorite movie. She responds by telling me that Clementine was “the most fun” she’s ever had playing a character. She then goes on to tell me that she never watches her own movies (“except at premieres because then I kind of have to”), but that a friend recently asked her to watch Eternal Sunshine with her. “I agreed because I hadn’t watched it in ages, and my god, was that an experience! It was such a terrific film and so fun to make,” she divulges.

Fifteen minutes have gone by and Winslet gets a text from her friends that they’ll be there in any second. “I’m throwing a surprise shindig for my friend’s 42nd birthday,” she tells me. “She’s going to kill me because I promised I wouldn’t make a big deal out of her birthday, but it’s her birthday! What kind of friend would I be not to make a big deal out of it?” I laugh as she continues to tell me that “I was going to make this an early night but my kids are already asleep so why not celebrate?” It is clear that, despite the countless jewels and designer dresses for red carpet affairs she has received and multi-million dollar contracts she has signed, Kate Winslet is just like anyone else.

“Well, I should go inside and make sure we have a table,” she says as she smothers the lit remains of her cigarette with the toe of her chic, tall leather boots. She gives me a hug and kisses both my cheeks (like a true European). “It was so lovely to meet you,” she says. I ask her if I can take a photo with her. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m just terrified of Facebook and the Internet and all that shit,” she replies. “Would you mind if we just kept this our little memory?” She stretches out her hand to shake mine once more before she leaves, smile still intact. She gets to the door and turns around and waves to me. My childhood dream had just come true.

There’s that old expression that people say: never meet your heroes because chances are you’ll just be disappointed. Well, I’ve never been able to confirm or refute that statement because I had never met my idol. Tonight, I can safely say that I don’t find that expression to be true. Kate Winslet was everything I had hoped she would be. She was warm, funny, beautiful, charming, and just … normal.

Near the end of Titanic, Old Rose (played by the marvelous and recently deceased Gloria Stewart) reminisces about Jack: “I don’t even have a picture of him. He exists now only in my memory.” I may not have a picture to document my twenty minutes with Kate Winslet, but tonight will forever stay engrained in my memory.