on June 28, 1996 by Joseph McBride
    Demi Moore's revealing star turn in this Castle Rock production will be remembered in film history because she reportedly received the highest salary ever paid to an actress--$12.5 million (that's $6.25 million for each breast). Although it's a sad commentary on the film business that Meryl Streep has never received anything like that for baring her soul, "Striptease" doesn't even succeed in its own lowdown aspirations at raunchy comedy. Hardly a flicker of genuine eroticism exudes from Moore's dourly gymnastic routines on the Eager Beaver runway, while a tediously melodramatic child-custody plot keeps dampening the humor.    The usually sharp satiric skills of writer/director Andrew Bergman ("It Could Happen to You," "Honeymoon in Vegas") are muddled by this film's schizoid approach to its subject. The denizens of "Striptease," adapted from a novel by Carl Hiaasen, are strictly bottom-feeders, yet Moore's Erin Grant affects an unearned superiority toward her profession. Because this actress/commodity so energetically displays her buffed physique for the filmgoing public, it's a tad hypocritical for Moore and Bergman to look down on the slobbering audiences who populate the strip club. Moore's attempt to portray Erin as a noble figure of feminist empowerment also seems ridiculous in this utterly sleazy context.
   As Erin struggles to keep her daughter (played by Moore's own daughter, Rumer Willis) out of the clutches of her slimy ex-husband (Robert Patrick), the film sinks to the level of a gussied-up TV movie. Giving her standard one-note performance of overheated earnestness, Moore never seems to be in on the joke, even after she becomes the pawn of a ludicrous blackmail plot directed against degenerate right-wing Congressman David Dilbeck (Burt Reynolds). A perpetually priapic caricature of outrageous moralistic hypocrisy, Reynolds is a hoot, as is the droll Ving Rhames ("Mission: Impossible") as the club's bouncer, but they and Moore seem to be inhabiting different movies. Starring Demi Moore, Armand Assante, Ving Rhames, Robert Patrick and Burt Reynolds. Directed and written by Andrew Bergman. Produced by Mike Lobell. A Columbia release. Comedy/drama. Rated R for nudity, erotic dancing and language. Running time: 114 min
Tags: Starring Demi Moore, Armand Assante, Ving Rhames, Robert Patrick and Burt Reynolds. Directed, written by Andrew Bergman, Produced by Mike Lobell, Columbia, Comedy, drama

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