I know what you’re thinking; this movie about male strippers starring Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey isn’t going to be very good is it? Well, get ready to be surprised, as Magic Mike is a brilliantly compelling comedy drama by esteemed director Steven Soderbergh.
Tatum plays Magic Mike, a talented male stripper who has dreams of making a success of himself, with imminent plans on starting his own business. Until then he’s paid to dance for women, and lives a playboy lifestyle that many young men would dream of, including a certain Adam (Alex Pettyfer) who is hopeful of a break in the stripping business, as Mike takes the keen youngster under his wing.
Thanks to a blind leap of faith by the strip club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), Adam is given the chance to show what he can do, and he takes his opportunity with both hands, earning him a job which guarantees a fair amount of partying, drug taking and picking up countless women, whilst being paid for such privileges.
As Adam’s willingness and increasing delectation for his new lifestyle grows, Mike is contemplating leaving the business behind him, and such thoughts are sparked by his pending romance with Adam’s somewhat more conservative older sister Brooke (Cody Horn). However, Mike must display a resolute strength of character to quit his pleasurable job in order to fulfil his life ambitions, whilst also trying to pluck up the courage to win over the heart of Brooke.
Due to the marketing campaign for Magic Mike, you can’t be blamed for expecting superficial Hollywood drivel, but Soderbergh has in fact presented a picture that works as a perceptive social study of a working-class man who is desperate to make a success of himself, but instead finds himself stripping for money. Soderbergh cleverly depicts the world of stripping equally as positively as he does negatively, highlighting the nonchalant, misogynistic lifestyle of those being paid to take their clothes off, with the more seedy and gritty aspects and the lack of intimacy and earnest human relations between two people, in a similar vein to Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.
The picture is evidently being marketed for women, yet this film shouldn’t alienate a potential male audience who would also enjoy this film, as Magic Mike has enough about it to appeal to both sexes. Soderbergh is merely using the stripping world as a backdrop to a more important narrative of Mike’s journey and ambitions. However despite delving into quite honest and earthy themes, Magic Mike remains good fun throughout, not taking itself too seriously, with somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek feeling to it.
While we’re on the subject of being pleasantly surprised by this film, there is no greater surprise than that of the performances by both Tatum and McConaughey. Two actors that have had their fair share of criticisms over the years, have both really started to come into their element within the past year or so. Following 21 Jump Street and Haywire, it’s been a relatively impressive year for Tatum, who has really excelled in more jovial, comedic roles, as he possesses a certain charm about him. Nice dance moves too.
As for McConaughey, with a spine-tingling performance in the recently released Killer Joe, here is an actor that is certainly setting out to prove his doubters wrong, of which I had been one myself. He manages to encapsulate the role of Dallas perfectly in line with the overall feel of the film, being equally as playful and charming as he is quite dark and intense. Whoever was left in charge of choosing his costumes however, must be someone with a vendetta against the actor, as some of the rather revealing leather outfits leave little to the imagination. But fair play to the man, he certainly can’t be accused of not getting into the spirit of things, a sentiment shared amongst the entire cast.
On a more negative note, the latter stages to the film are no match to the opening hour, as when the romantic storyline between Mike and Brooke unfolds and takes precedence over the narrative, the film does become somewhat mawkish, disregarding the uniqueness that had previously existed. There are also a few too many random stripping montages which seem somewhat superfluous, coming across as mere time-filler.
Magic Mike is an enjoyable picture and one that just goes to show you can’t always judge a book by its cover. I’m sure women will enjoy this film, and if men can muster up the courage to ask for “one ticket to Magic Mike please”, then I’m sure they’ll enjoy it too.