The most ludicrous scene in Striptease doesn’t take place in a strip club, and it’s not the one in which Demi Moore does a private table dance for Burt Reynolds’ festering eyebrows. No, it would have to be the one in which she dances all by herself in her apartment. She’s just gotten out of the shower, and as she cavorts in front of a mirror, rehearsing her ”exotic” moves, we can’t help but notice that she keeps draping a towel in front of her breasts.
For whom, exactly, is Demi covering up? Moore has tooled her body so that it resembles a gleaming hunk of military hardware — stomach muscles like iron, breasts like B-52s. For nearly a year she has hyped that body on Letterman, Barbara Walters, etc. Now, after all that, she turns out to be…coy. Shy. Not Demi but demure. In Striptease, Demi Moore wants the cachet of being edgy without revealing any edge. (During the few moments she deigns to flash those B-52s, she seems to think she deserves a a medal.) And the movie takes its amorphous, muzzy-headed tone right from its star. Is it an exploitation thriller? A farce? A vanity project — Moore’s love letter to her own sculpted bod? All three, I’m afraid. The disastrous misalliance of a director, Andrew Bergman (Honeymoon in Vegas, The Freshman), who turns everything to wackiness and a star so uptight about her own image she can barely bring herself to crack a smile, Striptease can’t decide whether to be sexy or safe or campy or cuddly. So it comes close to being nothing at all.
Moore plays a divorced Florida mom out to win custody of her daughter (played by Demi’s own daughter Rumer Willis) from her goofy-abusive, drug- addled ex-husband (Robert Patrick). The setup, a blatant attempt to establish Moore as a saint, is such a sop to the audience that it drags the movie down from the opening scene. Here, as in The Scarlet Letter, Moore acts huffy and above it all, like a nun dropped into the middle of a frat-house hazing. And her humorless self-regard flattens Bergman’s ersatz anarchy. For every moderately amusing idea, such as Reynolds, as the depraved Congressman Dilbeck, slavering lustily over Moore’s laundry lint, there are a dozen others that go nowhere. (Bergman may be the last director in America who thinks putting someone in a yarmulke is automatically good for a laugh.)
Striptease has the inert, cruddy-looking ambiance of a straight-to-tape thriller. Only two of the actors are allowed a tinge of personality: big, bald, somnambulist-voiced Ving Rhames as Moore’s protective strip-club bouncer (he’s a saint too — but that’s sort of a joke), and Reynolds as the leering Dilbeck, who treats the world as his own private pig trough; depravity has turned his mind to mush, and he loves it. If only Reynolds actually got to deliver some funny lines! Striptease lets down its own performers right along with the audience. It’s a Christmas tree someone forgot to string with ornaments. C-