Film Review: Magic Mike
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Thousands of women up and down the country will no doubt flock to see Magic Mike, wanting to see a film about the sexual politics of male stripping, the deep emotional turmoil of the performers and the exploitation that goes with the industry.
Actually, who am I kidding? The main pull is probably a naked Channing Tatum. However, there is, somewhat surprisingly, plenty for any boyfriends who get dragged along by their other halves to see this film.
Magic Mike stars Channing Tatum as Mike, a stripper at the Xquisite club which is run by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Mike is trying to save enough money to get his handmade furniture business off the ground and befriends nineteen-year-old Adam (played by Alex Pettyfer) who, down on his luck and generally not going anywhere in life, sees stripping as an exciting way to get women, status and cash. But, as with all exploitation films of this type, things aren't as glamorous as they first seem.
This plot has been done before but it's cast bring a fresh approach to the well-worn story. The performances in the film are really impressive, especially from Tatum who demonstrates a huge emotional range, aided by director Steven Soderbergh's lingering close-ups on Mike as he ponders his future backstage at the strip club. Matthew McConaughey as the club's owner was both humorous and a little bit sinister and Alex Pettyfer (remember him as Alex Rider in Stormbreaker?!) pulled off the uninitiated youngster very convincingly.
If you're a guy and you see this film, you will leave the cinema feeling rather inadequate. The stripping scenes were...erm...nicely done and there was certainly no shortage of rippling male torsos. The number of gym hours which had to have been put in by the cast don't bear thinking about and there's certainly a lot of male eye-candy in this film.
The cinematography was effective and distinctive and helped create a world which was attractive on the surface but which had a sinister undercurrent. Had the film been solely stripping sequences with a flimsy surrounding narrative, its female target audience would have been the only people singing its praises. But Magic Mike works because it had substance behind the innumerable of shots of male buttocks. The lives of the strippers off-stage was the film's main focus and, as such, there was something for the guys in the audience as well as the girls.
As a portrayal of masculinity (albeit a naked one), Magic Mike is an enjoyable escapade and is pleasantly surprising. The film succeeds because of its engagement with darker issues and focus on the characters themselves, rather than simply being a chick-flick about good looking guys taking their clothes off in all manner of ways. A word of warning though, ladies: your boyfriend may feel a bit insecure after seeing this film.