It can be less than compelling in real life to hear a burlesque performer explain how their routines are designed to challenge the beholder’s preconceptions of gender or beauty or whatnot.
While there’s a degree of such preaching in Beth B’s Exposed, the doc will surely be eye-opening for those not already in the choir.
The picture follows eight burlesque performers based in New York, and features plenty of often-explicit footage of their acts. When Bambi the Mermaid pushes an egg out of her vagina — things emerging from vaginas and rectums is a recurring theme — and explains that the egg-laying is an homage to the trashy oeuvre of John Waters, Exposed hints at a less-explored, potentially more interesting theme than body politics: how what they call New Burlesque fits into the modern sleaze of New York, and Coney Island in particular.
Much of the third act is concerned with the charismatic Mat Fraser, a British man born with foreshortened arms due to his mother’s use of thalidomide, and Mat’s fellow performer and wife, the fully armed Julie Atlas Muz.
Seeing Mat and Julie cuddling in bed is more powerful (and heartwarming) than any degree of political exposition.
Like burlesque itself, Exposed is at its best when it shows rather than tells.