Sunday, November 4, 2012

Film #151: MAGIC MIKE

Upon its release to DVD, I feel the need here to recommend MAGIC MIKE to all.  Women and gay men, I feel, will have no problem with this, and I get it, because it's gonna be categorical party fun for them.  But I also want to talk it up to those guys that resolutely don't wanna witness a buncha ripped dudes disrobing to their skivvies.  Look, I get this, too.  I'm straight, and I felt slightly weird walking into the theater to see it by myself.  But I dropped that ignorance like a hot rad cap on a summer's day, and pretty much loved the movie from the get-go.  Director Steve Soderburgh portrays the stripping biz more honestly than any likened female-driven movie has even bothered to do (usually, in movies, nudie gals are portrayed as on the proverbial downward spiral).  Here, this pursuit is seen as an often fun, sexy, taxing, limited, perilous, means-to-an-end profession.  And it's portrayed in a way that pays stark attention to the tides of its characters' situations and emotions, as well as to its vibrantly Florida-slathered atmosphere.

MAGIC MIKE can seem plotless, but that's good.  It means attention is paid more to character, dialogue, emotion and setting (if there's one downtick, it's screenwriter Reid Carolyn's forced injection of  a thudding and preachy third-act drug plot).  Channing Tatum, as the learned, stand-up title character, is superb in the lead (look, even as fit as he is--and even if it is based on Tatum's experiences as a real-life dances--it takes guts to get up there and gyrate like that while, offstage, displaying a life-embracing personality; his is a brave, hearty, physical performance). Alex Pettyfer plays his desperate, quasi-likable lazy-ass charge well, and the terrific Cody Horn, as Pettyfer's on-the-fence sister, is a worthy match for Mike.  I equally like wrestler Kevin Nash as the one guy in the chorus line that can't dance worth shit--and, thankfully, no one ever says a word to him about it.  And, as the final jab, there's Matthew McConaughey who's re-energized his career this year with this and KILLER JOE. His assured performance as the friendly but demanding club's owner/operator/MC is immutable.  This is the sort of character he plays best--sickeningly egotistical, and yet successful, fun to be around, talented, apparently level-headed, and a little scary.  I don't see how anyone can question that this is an Oscar-possible performance.

Above all, while watching MAGIC MIKE, I found my cheeks aching from smiling so at the joy all these wonderfully diverse women were having soaking in that naughty, alcohol-and-flesh-sodden sort of fun that men are by rote expected to devour. (And, by the way, there are scads of delicious ladies in the movie, including the stunning Riley Keough--Elvis Presley's granddaughter, I should point out--who provides some late-film rewards to guys who've made it thus far).  I find MAGIC MIKE to be Soderburgh's most ecstatic movie--I only wish that there could be made a female-driven stripping film that had so much verve, while remaining so compassionate.  Ultimately, it's a well-photographed (by Soderburgh, under his "Peter Andrews" alter-ego) and tremendously good-hearted peer into another world.  And, indeed, I resisted it for a long time, but Channing Tatum--despite his annoying name--is a promising screen presence. I hope he hits further notes later in his career, but this film gives me a sense he's going to give it a go.  He has a smashing scene with a smitten but immoveable bank loan manager that is, frankly, revelatory.


Unknown said...

I agree that this is a film that anyone could enjoy, regardless of gender or sexuality because its so well directed and actually has a pretty good script! Great post.

Sam Juliano said...

I wasn't the biggest fan Dean, but i know it got solid reviews and a number of people I respect like yourself connected with it. But I see you did resist it for a good part of the way! ha! Agreed on McConaughey, who has indeed energized his career with this and with KILLER JOE.

Wonderful, reflective essay!