Angel is a dancer wishing to adopt a child. Stormy is a dancer with a secret with her brother Sully. Jasmine is a poetess who falls in love with Dennis. Jo is a dancer who became pregnant and Jessie is a woman fighting to survive in Hollywood. The link between them is the fact that they dance at Blue Iguana, a strip-club managed by Eddie. Their personal dramas are the theme of this movie. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Jasmine (Sandra Oh) comes from Seattle but works in California. 5 years later, Oh plays a character on the long running Grey's Anatomy (2005) who lives in Seattle but comes from California. See more »
Jessie uses her real name as her stage name at the Blue Iguana, something which is forbidden by the managers for safety reasons. This is made clear halfway through the film when Stormy is told off by Dave for having mail sent to her real name Marie Hughes. See more »
[Whistling and waving]
Officer? Officer, could... could you help me with... I... Could you help take a picture of my... I want to take a picture of myself in front of this billboard.
Officer Pete Foster:
Is that you?
Officer Pete Foster:
I'm a lot smaller in person.
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Upon first impression, Dancing at the Blue Iguana might appear to be just another "T and A movie," like Showgirls. After all, isn't Dancing at the Blue Iguana about strippers and "pole dancers," and doesn't it contain copious amounts of female nudity, just like Showgirls? Yes, on both of these counts. However, merely to conclude from this that Dancing at the Blue Iguana is just another "skin flick" is mistaken, and misses the fact that there is something much deeper going on here. This is more a film about the troubles and unrealized hopes of its characters (who happen to work in a strip club), rather than about their bodies. In short, there is a sadness, poignancy, and desperation, which exists at the heart of Dancing at the Blue Iguana, which gives it a dramatic power not found (nor attempted) in a superficially similar film like Showgirls (which, arguably, just is a "T and A movie").
This film was directed by Michael Radford, who is most famous for his work on Il Postino. The script and the characters in the film grew out of an improvisational workshop which Radford conducted with his lead actors. They each had to research their characters and come up with a storyline for them. Although the acting done in the film is improvised, it sounds polished and believable, and gives the film a raw, edgy feel. The actors for the most part create interesting and sympathetic characters. I'll mention two characters that I liked most. First, Darryl Hannah plays "Angel," a character who is naive and innocent at heart, even though she's a stripper. There is a scene in the film in which she gets herself arrested by a cop, and how she gets arrested I will not disclose, but suffice it to say that it is ironic, funny, and sad. Second, Sandra Oh plays "Jasmine," a stripper who is secretly a poet at heart. She regularly attends a poetry reading and at one of those meetings, she gets involved with its organizer. He thinks that she is a great poet, and perhaps can even get published. She initially has reservations about their relationship, because she is a stripper, and she fears that he won't accept her because of that. He assures her that it doesn't bother him. Skipping forward, there is a scene between them which is my favorite in the film. He decides to visit the club where Jasmine works ("Blue Iguana") after she repeatedly failed to return his calls (and why she doesn't do so is wisely left understated by the film). She comes out and does one of her dance routines. He sees her for the first time for who she really is, a stripper. And although he doesn't say a word, his expression tells all: I do not approve of that. The sound track for this scene is Moby's song "Porcelain," and it feels like it was written specially for this scene. During the song's refrain ("So this is goodbye..."), he eventually gets up and leaves, obviously full of disappointment. Meanwhile, Jasmine continues her dance to a crowd of cheering audience, and although her face might remain expressionless, her eyes betray her true emotion: during her pole dance, tears flow down her cheeks. That scene really stayed with me for some time after the film ended. The girls that work at "Blue Iguana" are strippers, but they're people, too. And just like the rest of us, they seek true love, but are often left disappointed, and they have hopes and ambitions, which they often do not follow through. Watching Dancing at the Blue Iguana, I was reminded of a beautiful point that Roger Ebert made in his (print) review of Sid and Nancy, back in 1986: "If a movie can illuminate the lives of other people who share this planet with us and show us not only how different they are but, how even so, they share the same dreams and hurts, then it deserves to be called great." Dancing at the Blue Iguana is such a film, and it deserves to be called great.
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