Critics' Corner

Rita Kempley - Style section,
"The film's premise is thinner than the heroine's G-string."

Eric Brace - Weekend section, "Who told Demi Moore she can act?"

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Scene from this movie Erin, a young divorcee played by Demi Moore, loses custody of her 7-year-old daughter after being fired from her clerk's job at the FBI. The judge rules in favor of Erin's estranged husband, Darrell (played by rowdy Robert Patrick), whom he knows to be a career criminal with serious emotional problems. Erin does what any mom would under the circumstances: She becomes a topless dancer.
-- Rita Kempley
Rated R
Director: Andrew Bergman
Cast: Demi Moore; Armand Assante; Burt Reynolds; Ving Rhames; Robert Patrick; Rumer Willis
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Filmography: Demi Moore; Burt Reynolds;
Ving Rhames; Armand Assante

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`Striptease': No Nude Is Good Nude

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 28, 1996

Demi Moore bares most everything but her soul in "Striptease," a sexless seriocomedy that would be a bust without the support of Burt Reynolds and Ving Rhames. The pair bring a much-needed lift to this tale of a mother at the mercy of the system. Without them, the movie is mostly a showcase for the star's personal trainer.

The film's premise is thinner than the heroine's G-string. Reynolds, a corrupt congressman, and Rhames, a lovable bouncer, are smitten by Moore's Erin Grant, an exotic dancer at the Eager Beaver topless bar. Pumped and primed for the part, Moore brings an unusual muscularity to the daily bump-and-grind.

Erin, a young divorcee, loses custody of her 7-year-old daughter (Moore's own daughter, Rumer Willis) after being fired from her clerk's job at the FBI. The judge rules in favor of Erin's estranged husband, Darrell (rowdy Robert Patrick), whom he knows to be a career criminal with serious emotional problems. Erin does what any mom would under the circumstances: She becomes a topless dancer.

Like an understudy in a Broadway fantasy, Erin becomes an overnight sensation. After her set, the bartender has to mop up the puddles of drool. Rep. David Dilbeck (Reynolds), a randy souse whose reelection is crucial to Florida's ruthless sugar cane growers, is so besotted with Erin that he refuses to campaign till he has her.

Erin, who is interested in Dilbeck only because she thinks he can help her regain custody of her child, suddenly finds herself snagged like a nail in a nylon by this increasingly precarious situation. The dancer, however, has a devoted ally in Shad (Rhames), who regales the sugar cane goons with tales of Meryl Streep's go-go-bar years. But to reveal more would be a travesty.

Andrew Bergman, who wrote and directed this stripped-down adaptation of Carl Hiaasen's hilarious satire, takes a much broader aim at hypocrisy, corruption and sexism in South Florida. He unbuckles the Bible Belt and pulls down the good ol' boys' pants in a movie that becomes increasingly mechanical as it draws to its perfunctory close.

"Striptease" loses all suspense 30 minutes before the end when Moore finally slips off her bra. (Her cup runneth not over, but neither is it a demitasse.) Her gyrations, of course, are the film's main attraction, but Reynolds's hora at a Jewish retirement home is its highlight. Moore seems to think she's striking a blow for feminism here -- Erin strips to women's anthems and pays lip service to the "good honest work" she's doing for mankind. Talk about pulling yourself up by your bra straps.

Striptease is rated R for nudity, sexuality and profanity.

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`Striptease': Reynolds Outstrips Moore

By Eric Brace
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 28, 1996

Who told Demi Moore she can act? She can't. End of discussion.

The weight of her inadequacy drags down what might have been a certifiably enjoyable summer movie. "Striptease" is the tale of Erin Grant (Moore), a stripper out of economic necessity, working hard against the system to get custody of her daughter who resides with her felon dad. (A lousy judge decided a criminal-turned-informant would make a better parent than someone who takes off her clothes for a living.)

When a U.S. congressman (played by Burt Reynolds -- more on him in a second) in the middle of a reelection campaign makes an ugly scene at Erin's club (the "Eager Beaver"), it sets in motion a swirl of blackmail, murder, kidnapping and, of course, the happy reunion of Erin and daughter (played by Moore's real-life offspring, Rumer Willis).

If you're a Carl Hiaasen fan, you've likely read the book that provided the basis for this movie, and if you've read it, you should avoid this adaptation. The elements of Hiaasen's plot are all here: the corrupt southern Florida politicians, the psychotic criminals, the sugar industry baddies, the Dade County homicide cop, the strip club bouncer, the strippers, the snakes, wolves and monkeys. But the fun is missing. Hiaasen is a master storyteller who creates delirious pleasure with his manic characters propelling his manic multiple plots.

But the movie is unwisely built as a vehicle for Moore, an actress with no humor, manic or otherwise. Director Andrew Bergman constructs scenes to alternately showcase Moore's well-publicized body and her teary but stiff-jawed maternal instinct. To get to the inevitable ending, Bergman (who also wrote the screenplay) spends way too much camera time on Moore's curves, then blows through the loose-thread-tying climax, leaving plenty of questions unanswered.

If there's a reason to see "Striptease," it's the stunning performance of Reynolds. Always known for his comic timing and comfortable characterizations, Reynolds turns in one of the best performances of his zig-zagging career as congressman David Dilbeck. Whether lusting pathetically over Moore's body or giving a heartfelt speech to a conservative Christian group, Reynolds's Dilbeck is a fully formed, brilliant slime-ball of a politician.

The supporting cast (including Ving Rhames as Shad, the strip club bouncer who becomes Erin's protector, and Armand Assante as homicide detective Al Garcia who becomes Erin's other protector) is a fine chunk of talent as well and manages to steal most of the scenes from the wooden Moore. But based on the advance publicity, it's her body the filmmakers are pushing, not plot and not character. Let's hope Bergman leaves the rest of Hiaasen's books alone.

STRIPTEASE (R) -- Contains lots and lots of women's breasts and provocative dancing, a few dead bodies and some bad words.

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