Dancing At The Blue Iguana

Dancing At The Blue Iguana


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Strippers have lives, too. Do you care? You should.

What's so good about Michael Radford's film is that it doesn't preach and fails to dot the "i"s. The Blue Iguana is a club in L.A., one step above seedy and two steps below chic. The girls are good and probably twice as sexy as the real thing.

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This isn't about sex. It's about Angel and Jo and Jasmine and Jessie and Stormy. It's about Eddie (Robert Wisdom) and Bobby (W Earl Brown), too, but mainly it's about the girls. Angel (Daryl Hannah) is the star. There's a picture of her on a hoarding off the main drag, advertising the club. She's as sweet as candy, but too naive and vulnerable. The others know this and instinctively protect her.

They have stories to tell, but you are never allowed to hear them. Jo (Jennifer Tilly) is feisty and out there and angry. She's pregnant and doesn't want to be and won't talk about it. There seems no evidence of male support, or hope beyond a determination not to be beaten down by the abusive nature of her profession. Jasmine (Sandra Oh) has a secret passion for poetry. She goes to readings and sits quietly at the back. Like Jo, she takes no prisoners, expects no favours.

Jessie (Charlotte Ayanna) is the youngest. She's new to the club, where her desire to be liked makes her an asset. Outside, in the desperate city, there is an abyss of pain and you don't know why. Stormy (Sheila Kelley) is a romantic depressive, with Emmylou Harris looks and a history of torn promises. She's a mystery, brooding like her dark eyes on the impossibility of joy.

The film is neither voyeuristic, nor sentimental. Radford is an English director whose first film was the sensitive, heart-breaking Another Time, Another Place. He went on to make White Mischief and Il Postino. This is more experimental, having emerged from improv workshops into the light of a fully-fledged script. It has the feeling of a personal journey, for him and for the actors.

Hannah demonstrates a flair for comedy that is unexpected. Tilly is fierce and Oh intelligent. Kelley's intensity has influence and Ayanna's perception transparent. As an ensemble piece, Iguana avoids the obvious while remaining true to the night-scarred Day-glo edginess of Los Angeles.

This is what Striptease wasn't and Showgirls tried to be - honest, committed, fragmentary, compassionate.

Reviewed on: 30 Jun 2002
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A glimpse into the emotionally fraught world of strippers at a LA club.
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Director: Michael Radford

Writer: Michael Radford, David Linter

Starring: Daryl Hannah, Jennifer Tilly, Sandra Oh, Charlotte Ayanna, Sheila Kelley, Robert Wisdom, W Earl Brown, Kristin Bauer, Vladimir Mashkov, Chris Hogan, Elias Koteas

Year: 2000

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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