Director: Greg Carter
Cast: Ali Cobrin, Robert Hoffman, Datari Turner, Carmen Electra, K. D Aubert, Briana Evigan, James Remar
Plot: With her father’s crippling medical bills, struggling actress Monica (Cobrin) is forced to work at a strip club, promising her boyfriend (Hoffman), it won’t change who she is.
The good thing about a movie like Lapdance is that your bar is set pretty low wandering into it. At least for the male viewers, it offers some attractive women to make the potential suffering a little easier, but you don’t expect anything more than sexploitation. However, when it turns out to be half decent, you end up being surprised at the end result.
It helps that Greg Carter is in no rush to get to the strip club scenes. We are introduced to the cute couple leading the movie and the writers spend twenty minutes getting us to care for them. While Robert Hoffman is a pretty tame actor until the angry scenes kick in, meaning that there is never as much chemistry as you would like there to be, this really helps. Ali Cobrin’s Monica is a well-meaning good girl, in a loving relationship and her boyfriend isn’t the douchebag we expect. He starts the movie by getting down on one knee and we learn through exposition a few scenes later that he has put his career on hold for a few years, so Monica can get through college before they move out of town together. We like them as a couple and instantly our expectations of this film begin to rise cautiously. Then disaster strikes. James Remar, playing Monica’s dad, loses out to a cancer battle and is announced terminally ill. The medical bills to keep her father in care put the couple’s entire life on hold and seeing as they want to go into the film industry, they have no immediate way of getting the money together. As they spend a few weeks struggling by, Monica bumps into an old school friend (a tragically under-used Briana Evigan – a favourite actress of mine – who shows up to get Monica to the next plot point and then turns into a glorified extra. Disappointing), who suggests working at a strip club. It is a fast way of getting money together and offers a way into Los Angeles, so she can start her acting career. At first, she and her boyfriend are hesitant, but as they start getting final notices at their apartment, the two of them give in. Monica’s boyfriend has rules: he has to be present whenever she dances with strangers, no bringing her co-workers outside of the workplace and no VIP dancing. However, as events crop up, those rules need to be broken and Monica starts losing control of the situation.
Suddenly, we have gone from a likely failure to a movie that could actually do something a mainstream movie couldn’t. This is the kind of subject material that major producers wouldn’t touch as it descends too close to female objectification. No matter what way you swing it, this film still has its fair share of naked dancing, which is always going to put a stop to any interesting roads it begins to take. However, in being a B Movie, there is no boundaries to what this film can do and it begins to use its unique story to make some interesting points. Monica, as the opening twenty minutes proves, is a honest, good person, coming into the lap-dancing industry for a very moral and decent reason. However, the industry begins to corrupt her and her relationship. No one misses the fact that Monica’s reasons for entering the lap-dancing business are pretty much the same reasons the veteran strippers, the ones with wrinkles beneath the eyes, have, suggesting that this is not the quick fix that it is being suggested to be. Any doubts or reservations Monica has about her new job are quickly dismissed with money. Before long, the dying father plotline is almost buried in the background of the movie, the motivations of what Monica does being blurred, as she gets deeper and deeper into the world of stripping. It also helps motivate some of the side characters. A stripper who attempts to get in Monica’s way is not necessarily evil, just made desperate for a way out of this life. The villains of the movie aren’t necessarily punished for their actions, but the movie abandons them in the strip club, suggesting that they started the movie in purgatory, rather than being sentenced to it. Yes, Lapdance has some interesting themes to pick up on, but it struggles to come out of the other end, a fully formed movie.
There are just too many off-beat moments about it. For one, it suffers from the typical edginess factor. It is as if any movie set in a strip club needs to demean itself with shocking scenes. A foursome sequence felt totally unnecessary and perhaps there is one too many strip club montages at play. The most disappointing thing about this movie is that after a while, it stops being an interesting look at the lives of strippers and turns into a run-of-the-mill chick flick. Remove the strip club setting and we have a very by-the-numbers story about a relationship breaking under the strain of a current situation, both players toying with the idea of turning to new partners and then regretting how distant they have become. The ending is particularly cringe-worthy with the use of angelic cinematography. It is a bad move to make, because now Lapdance is too romantic for the male audience, but the strip club setting is too objective towards women for the usual romance movie crowd to enjoy. If the movie kept to an interesting discussion, it could have attracted both genders, but Lapdance evolves into a movie without an identity and, therefore, an audience. Personally I would have explored the supporting cast and made it almost akin to ‘Orange is the New Black’ exploring the lives of the other strippers in the club (which neatly solves that Briana Evigan problem!). Alas, as a result, we have a movie fumbling with a good idea, before blowing its load too early and feeling ashamed about itself. Maybe the name Lapdance is more relevant than I originally thought.
Final Verdict: It is interesting enough, but the narrative is a little unsure of what to do with itself, making Lapdance a little disappointing.