Dancing at the Blue Iguana (2000)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Erotic Drama, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 19, 2001 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 123 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The video box describes it as "from the director of Il Postino," but Dancing at the Blue Iguana is a far less sentimentally sweet delivery from Michael Radford. In fact, he's pretty much doing a 180, infiltrating the back rooms of strip clubs for a realistic and uncompromising probe into psychological scars as naked as the women. Radford may saturate the spectrum of issues facing girls who disrobe for money, but the film exceeds the level of scolding message movie or tawdry skin flick thanks to the commitment of the actresses. Even the household names -- such as Darryl Hannah and Jennifer Tilly -- are on board for the nudity, which helps realize Radford's goal of taking in the incidentals of this environment, without blinking. Its closest corollary may be Atom Egoyan's Exotica, because Iguana overcomes its soft-core stigma with an art-house earnestness of purpose, which appears in the form of improvisational dialogue and a steadily wandering camera. (Elias Koteas appears in both films as well). Yet this film's focus is diffused among five strippers, whose stock ambitions -- one aspires to be a poet, another to foster a child -- achieve poignancy in the hands of these actresses. Hannah does her most nuanced work yet, giving a soulful variation on her usual ditz role, characterized by inspired off-the-cuff babbling. Tilly also excels as a psychotic burnout, but the real surprise may be Sandra Oh, whose subtlety has long been forcibly repressed on HBO's grating slapstick comedy Arli$$.