Steven Soderbergh is known for directing movies like the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, Traffic and Side Effects. But in 2012, Soderbergh and Channing Tatum turned a sit down over a hotdog into a $167 million movie based on Tatum’s checkered past.
Most fans of Tatum know that he spent time as a stripper before his acting career took off. His ability to dance and move was a major reason for him to be casted in the Step Up movies, but Magic Mike was Tatum and Soderbergh’s way of telling the good, the bad and the ugly of this profession.
Mike (Tatum) is an entrepreneur and has dreams of owning his own furniture business. To fund his dream Mike is working at least three jobs, one of these jobs is stripping.
Mike is joined on stage by fellow dancers, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tarzan (Kevin Nash).
Tarzan passes out before his turn to go on stage and Mike has to come up with a solution. Mike met Adam “The Kid” (Alex Pettier) at a construction site earlier in the day and at a club that night. Mike called in a favor, forcing him to go out on stage.
This movie is filled with plenty of sexual situations, nudity and some drug use (if you couldn’t tell by Big Dick Richie’s name). But let’s be honest, how can a movie about male stripping not have sexual situations and nudity?
Soderbergh brought an unusual sense of comfort and watchability in this movie though. After the initial dance and seeing Tatum, McConaughey, and the other dancers in thongs, the audience, male viewers specifically, can settle in and enjoy the story.
The story is not actually centered around stripping, but just highlights the profession. Instead, Soderbergh and Tatum turned the narrative to focus on the life outside of dancing and the longing for the dreams beyond.
When this movie hit theaters a lot of people cringed at the thought of going to see this film, mostly guys. The commercials made this movie seem like it was just going to be poles, thongs and crumpled dollar bills. This was a justified response to the trailers, but it doesn’t capture the essence of the film.
I was surprised with how much I enjoyed this movie. It took time for me to buy in, but after the first dance scene I was able to see the deeper level that Soderbergh wove into the story.
There are no groundbreaking revelations that occur and no major conflicts really arise, but it is an intriguing and captivating story due to the talent that all of the actors portrayed, the cinematography and the warmth and depth the narrative brings.
Being a single, straight guy, I wasn’t thrilled to see a lot of guys dancing 98 percent naked. Even after the movie ended, I’m still not happy to have seen as much of McConaughey as I have. But knowing that Soderbergh made this movie and hearing how much fun these actors had making this movie, I wanted to see it.
Two things that Soderbergh does well are using perspective and weaving together stories.
In several scenes, we are seeing this activity through the eyes of the dancers. We are walked out onto the stage as Adam takes his first turn dancing.
We also see the camera laying on its side to see out of Adam’s eyes. It is little things like this that don’t really effect the story or flow of the movie but just catches the eye of the viewers and draws them into the character’s perspective.
There are many directors like Wes Anderson that have a specific style or color palate that they like, but Soderbergh simply makes his movies look good. There is no cookie-cutter style, rather just a beautiful look in every movie.
While most people focused solely on the dancing, which is impressive, there is also a romance and cries for help from both Adam and Mike.
Mike and Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn) have a flirty relationship from the start. They continue to meet as Mike and Adam become friends and Brooke starts to become fond of Mike. The parental roles that Mike and Brooke share, both caring for and protecting Adam, brings them together.
As joyous as the on-stage lives of these characters can seem, they are not without their missteps off-stage. We are given back story about Adam’s inability to respect authority. After a fist fight with his college football coach, Adam was sleeping on his Brooke’s couch and looking for work on Craigslist setting in motion the steps for that favor Mike asked him for.
After getting his pockets full of cash, and buying a truck, things are looking up for Adam. But, like the stage, looks can be deceiving. He takes a package of ecstasy from Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) to try and make a little extra cash. The poor decision to get into drugs nearly costs him his life and threatens both his and Mike’s careers.
Mike’s issues dovetail with the film’s ideas about and “on-stage” and “off-stage” identity. He takes Adam under his wing but it is clear that he suffers from loneliness. Even when he is surrounded by beautiful women, he is unhappy and searching for something different. Cue Brooke. As cliche as it seems, Brooke is Mike’s destination and happiness.
Magic Mike isn’t an award-winning movie, nor is it trash. Magic Mike is simply a solid movie about identity, ambition, and yes, male exotic dancing and stripping.
The biggest takeaway from this article needs to be that it is not just a movie for women. Magic Mike is a movie that both men and women can enjoy. Naturally the women will get more excitement out of the dance scenes, but guys can appreciate the difficulty and athleticism of the moves
and focus on the scenes outside of the club.
I never would have thought that I would say that I recommend a movie like this, but sure enough, I would give this movie (which I now own) to anyone who hasn’t seen it.
*Images from Popsugar, Screen Rant and The Wallpapers UK. Videos from Youtube.