British author Barnard (Poker Face, not reviewed) offers an anemic study of a young woman’s growing involvement in the world of London strip clubs.
Why does Belle George want to be a stripper? Take your pick: (1) She may be a lesbian and hopes that overexposure to female flesh will decrease her desire; (2) Ungainly and unfeminine, she thinks working as a costumed dancer might cure her oafishness; (3) She wants to be in show business like her glamorous mother, who hosts a popular television program; or (4) She’s an emotional masochist. Unfortunately, none of these explanations is explored in any depth, making it rather unlikely that a naive, upper-class young woman would suddenly decide on a career even her fellow strippers want to escape. As the narrative begins, Belle auditions at Xanadu with Sylvie, a teenager who hopes a brief stint at the strip club will garner her the union card she needs to pursue a proper acting career. Since Sylvie has nowhere to go, Belle takes the girl to her roach-infested flat, hoping they’ll become best friends. The two go to rehearsals, and Belle gradually improves, eagerly awaiting the day when she will graduate from the burlesque chorus to her own solo strip routine. But the on-the-job camaraderie she wished for never materializes; the other strippers view her as a poser who has better options but chooses to slum it for fun. She sexually pursues her boss and is puzzled when nothing comes from her obvious advances. Finally, it’s apparent that there’s only one explanation for Belle’s inability to reflect on her circumstances or interact with those around her: she’s just not very bright. Barnard’s portrait of the strip-club subculture is fascinating, as is her exploration of Belle’s co-dependent relationship with her successful mother, but these qualities simply can't overcome a poorly drawn lead character.
Ambitious, on occasion accomplished, but the question is still: Why?