Magic Mike (2012)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn.
Plot: A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Rating: M18 for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“Will you welcome to the stage, the one, the only... Magic Mike!”
Seven years ago when Lee Ang released Brokeback Mountain (2005), there were concerns that it was normalizing, if not promoting, homosexuality. Anyone who bothered to see it was labeled as gay. “You went to catch Brokeback? I didn’t know you were gay,” was easily one of the most common of responses of the year when a guy commented that he had just seen the film and loved it.
Move to the future that is 2012, and despite Singapore being more liberal and diverse, it seems like there is this silent assumption that any guy who buys a ticket to catch Magic Mike, a film about male strippers, is most obviously gay. “You mean you went to catch Magic Mike? I didn’t know you like hot and sweaty male bodies.”
In P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia (1999), Tom Cruise’s character said, “I’m quietly judging you,” well, I had that same feeling of being quietly judged when I bought a ticket to see Magic Mike. But of course, I wasn’t there to see Channing Tatum or Matthew McConaughey strip to their thongs; I was simply there to catch Steven Soderbergh’s new film.
Magic Mike is a dazzling film, captivating in its sight and sound, engaging in its dance choreography, but as with recent Soderbergh pictures like Haywire (2011) and Contagion (2011), it lacks the kind of dramatic substance that have made films like Erin Brockovich (2000) and Traffic (2000) so good.
Magic Mike features an excellent physical performance by Tatum, but McConaughey steals the show with his deep, seductive voice. McConaughey’s character heads a male stripping club, recruiting young men like Tatum’s title character. The film is vulgar, and features loads of sexually suggestive movements, but there is never explicit nudity.
Soderbergh is more interested in the performers than the sleazy act itself. He tries to develop his characters in between all the dances, but it somehow never works, especially the relationship between Mike and Adam (Alex Pettyfer).
Magic Mike impresses in its first half, but slowly fades into an above-average drama with pretty shots and thumping dance tracks. Soderbergh’s effort in making an accessible and youthful picture about something as fascinating as male strippers eventually comes across as… plain. But at least you will come away without treating male stripping with disdain, but instead see it as a provocative modern art form.
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