Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn
Director: Steven Soderbergh
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Hamstrung by protein-level decisions made during the first Nixon Administration, I can’t fully enjoy Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper drama Magic Mike. That’s what DNA gets you. But I did enjoy it as best as my hormones permit.
If your wife has planned some mysterious me-time this weekend, be aware where she’s going. She’s probably figuring out ways to smuggle kiwitinis in her purse as we speak. And she’ll enjoy it. Soderbergh sexualizes the male bodies of Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey much like the women’s bodies of Gina Carano in Haywire or Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience. The mercurial Ocean’s series director has become one of the last American filmmakers who believes in the carnal potential of cinema.
By casting the ultimate fighting champ Carano, Soderbergh rang in the year by crossing gender roles on the action film in Haywire. Conversely, Magic Mike places Tatum in the traditionally female role of a stripper with a heart of gold. The muscular heartthrob becomes something rare for a male lead – a sexual object. Like Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut, the film even begins with a butt shot of Tatum.
…. Now ladies, sit doww … you promised! …. please notice the film is more than its ripe bottom. Soderbergh’s recent films have been situated at the crossroads of work, performance, and identity. Mike is a sex worker with normal worries and dreams of a furniture business. He thinks he leaves it at work, but it’s not that easy. And a disagreement with a bank loan officer brings home Soderbergh’s point – the idea that capitalism depends on self-exploitation in which everyone participates. Just some ways are sexier than others.
Soderbergh can be a little like the edgy songwriter who stirs provocative images but doesn’t know quite where to go with them. At times, the film grips conventional plotlines for buoyancy – a will-they-won’t-they-of-course-they-will romance and a younger stripper’s ascent to stardom and descent into hedonism. Fortunately, the performances and tone are sharp and the detriment minimal.
Magic Mike is strangely the (loosely) real life story of its star Tatum, a male exotic dancer before his film career, but the fantasy of McConaughey – who as the club’s folksy owner nearly steals the show. But it’s Tatum’s sense of cool that holds the film together. He’s the owner of that unmistakable indefinable. It’s there in scene like when he casually backflips off a bridge into water, with no sweat or hesitation. I can’t quite define it, but I can see it, and it’s something I can’t quite forget.