Small-town girl Ali (Aguilera) moves to Los Angeles to pursue a career in showbiz. After being rejected as a performer several times by Tess (Cher), the owner of the Burlesque Lounge, she settles for a job as a cocktail waitress.
Predictably, Ali eventually gets her big break and lands a spot on stage. Her powerful vocals are soon the talk of the town, and she's made the star act. Her success soon lands her a rich suitor, Marcus (Eric Dane), while bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet) also competes for her affection.
Aguilera acts the small town girl with surprising panache. Her offstage toned-down look emphasises Ali's girl-next-door quality. As for Cher, she was born to play this role. She has a cynical comedic punch that contrasts nicely with Ali, whom she eventually begins mothering.
Burlesque banks on the audience's familiarity with Aguilera, the diva pop singer. We know a little secret from the start that the characters don't: namely that Aguilera really can sing. That dramatic irony endears Ali to us all the more: we feel for her when she's down, and root for her when she steps onstage.
This isn't Oscar material, but Aguilera debuts better than some of her singer-turned-actress peers; namely Britney Spears and Mariah Carey in their respective flops Crossroads and Glitter.