Saturday, September 1, 2012
Underneath your clothes (there’s an
endless ageless story)
Magic Mike: directed by Steven Soderbergh; written by Reid Carolin
(Author’s Note: It’s been almost a month since I’ve written anything resembling a review, and it’s not for a lack of films to write on. At the moment I’m sitting on no less than a dozen films reviews which I’ve yet to make headway on. I only mention this because the case of writing on not-so-new films becomes thorny when conversation on every new release seems to have a shelf life of ten days. Nonetheless, there shall be a slew of new-ish reviews – 2012 releases – forthcoming over the next few days. Maybe.)
Experimenting with style, subject matter and story has been a main part of Steve Soderbergh’s filmography for the better part of the last decade. So, inasmuch as there seemed to be a small wave of incredulity accompanying the announcement of his most recent release, Magic Mike, a movie about male strippers there wasn’t much to go on to argue that such and such wasn’t a lucid story choice for a director like Soderbergh. As it stands Magic Mike has opened to positive reviews and audience numbers which would suggest that the “gamble” of a stripper movie with and about Channing Tatum paid off. To say that would, of course, imply that the crux of Magic Mike depends on something unusual – an invalid supposition. For, even as male strippers are not a typical subject for mainstream films (other than The Full Monty what do we have?) Magic Mike in its examination of the behind-the-scenes machinations which come with the stripper life Magic Mike becomes an examination of familiar beats of life.
Tatum’s Mike is a jack-of-all-trades with his most lucrative job being the headlining stripper at Xquisite Strip Club. While on one of his many odd jobs Mike happens upon the jobless, friendless Adam, a youngster with a latent attitude problem to boot). Adam – drifts into an alliance with Mike and follows him into the stripping gig. What follows is not so much an intricate look at the stripping trade, per se, as it is more an assessment of tentative friendship and the subtle changes money and fame (no matter how indistinct) engender. For, like so many films have observed before, the age-old question of distinguishing between art and commerce makes for interesting artistic opportunities.
“Let me do a few tricks, some old and then some new tricks…”
Pelvic-thrusting Mike, tentative performer Adam, their somewhat sleazy boss Dallas, Adam’s baffled sister Brooke – none of them is an expressly tragic character at work but all of them, even Horn’s Brooke (easily the least effectively constructed character) emerge as true life people with just enough flaws to make them realistic but drawn with enough warm to make them affable. Which is not to say that Magic Mike turns a blind eye to the potential seediness of the incidences at hand for a purely character specific drama, but even as the film will admit that, yes, the situation here is somewhat grimy and certainly not one we want to remain in forever, it’s always aware that the characters have more to offer than their direct correlation to the stripping. And when they do (McConaughey’s almost gloatingly leering showrunner) it’s not quite in the way you’d expect. And, the performances are as vivid as necessary. By a hair I’d single out Pettyfer as my MVP with Tatum an inch behind, but from the fullest character to the most speciously drawn the actors are all giving good, earnest work.
Lovely / B+