Burlesque (2010) - Plot Summary Poster

(I) (2010)


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  • A small-town girl ventures to Los Angeles and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer.

  • The Burlesque Lounge has its best days behind it. Tess, a retired dancer and owner of the venue, struggles to keep the aging theater alive, facing all kinds of financial and artistic challenges. With the Lounge's troupe members becoming increasingly distracted by personal problems and a threat coming from a wealthy businessman's quest to buy the spot from Tess, the good fortune seems to have abandoned the club altogether. Meanwhile, the life of Ali, a small-town girl from Iowa, is about to change dramatically. Hired by Tess as a waitress at the Lounge, Ali escapes a hollow past and quickly falls in love with the art of burlesque. Backed by newfound friends amongst the theater's crew, she manages to fulfill her dreams of being on stage herself. Things take a dramatic turn though when Ali's big voice makes her become the main attraction of the revue.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In the opening scene, set in a rundown small Iowa town in the middle of nowhere, Ali Rose (Christina Aguilera) is a young waitress working in a seedy restaurant. Frustrated by her sexist boss's refusal to pay her, she packs up her belongings and performs "Something's Got A Hold On Me", shortly followed by her journey to Los Angeles to begin a new life for herself as a professional singer.

    Once in Los Angeles, Ali begins searching for places to audition, failing at every attempt. Walking during the night, she follows the sound of music into a building, having unknowingly arrived at a Burlesque club, where Tess (Cher) and the dancers perform "Welcome to Burlesque." Once inside, Ali meets Jack (Cam Gigandet) one of the bartenders, as well as the ticket till guy Alexis (Alan Cumming). Intrigued by the exotic dances, Ali decides to pursue a career on stage. Jack refers her to Tess for an audition, in which Ali is rejected instantly and ushered out by Sean (Stanley Tucci) the costumer for the dancers. Instead of leaving, Ali begins serving customers at the club as a waitress, while Tess and Sean observe with Jack asking Tess to give Ali a chance. Tess reluctantly hires Ali to work as a waitress.

    After returning to her apartment after work a few days later, Ali finds it in disarray having been broken into and that her money and all her belongings have been stolen. She shows up at Jack's apartment in the pouring rain and he agrees to let her stay with him for a few nights.

    One night at the club, Ali, attempts to talk to Tess and tell her she finds lip-synching limiting, but Ali is told that the customers prefer it that way. When one of the dancers, Georgia (Julianne Hough) becomes pregnant, auditions are held to replace her. Ali begins her audition when everyone leaves, and after performing to "Wagon Wheel Watusi", persuades Tess to allow her to become one of the club's dancers, much to the lead dancer Nikki's (Kristen Bell) annoyance. When Nikki appears drunk, Tess orders Ali to take her place. Behind the scenes, Tess argues with Marcus (Eric Dane), a businessman who has placed a bid on the club. Tess refuses to sell it to Marcus despite the pleas of her ex-husband Vince Scali (Peter Gallagher) who co-manages the club with her.

    Nikki is mad that Ali took her place so in the middle of her performance, she cuts off the sound. Sean immediately tries to lower the curtain. However, Ali begins to sing the song live, and the curtain is again raised. Everyone is impressed by her beautiful, strong voice. Excited, Tess announces that she will create a new show around the new lead singer and dancer, Ali. Sean, impressed by Ali, tells Jack that he should make a move on Ali before it's too late. Despite the club's growing success, Tess is still unable to pay up her debts to the bank.

    One night after the club closes, Tess, worried with the club's economic prospects, sings "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me". In the parking lot, a very jealous Nikki shows up drunk and picks a fight with Tess, calling Ali a "slut with mutant lungs." Tess, who has grown frustrated with Nikki, questions her gratitude for the help she has received. Angered, Nikki falsely confesses that she slept with Vince after his and Tess' honeymoon, and the altercation ends when Tess angrily retaliates by smashing the passenger side window on Nikki's convertible with a crowbar.

    Tensions arise between Ali and Jack as Marcus grows increasingly infatuated with her (Ali), making Jack, who is already engaged to another woman living in New York, jealous. At Georgia's wedding, Jack appears to call off his engagement, getting drunk. That night, Ali and Jack sleep together, but the following morning Jack's fiancee Natalie (Dianna Agron), a stage actress, returns unexpectedly from her play in New York and tells Ali that the engagement is still intact and that Jack had stated that nothing was going on between him and Ali, not even physical attraction ("she's not even that pretty!"). Feeling heartbroken and betrayed, Ali leaves the apartment.

    While spending time with Marcus, Ali finds out about air rights which refer to the empty space above a building and what can be done with it. She tells Tess everything and they devise a plan to reveal Marcus' intent to build a skyscraper where Tess' club is, destroying the ocean views of another building contractor.

    The contractor buys the air rights above the club to keep them clear and unobstructed for his million-dollar condos and the resulting money is enough for Tess to buy out Vince's share.

    In the final scene Ali, having reunited with Jack, performs on stage the song "Show Me How You Burlesque" with all of the dancers, a song which Jack wrote and finally finished.

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