Magic Mike – male strippers, but so much more

This was always going to be a hard film to pitch to the guys out there. In fact it has been widely marketed as a film for the ladies to ogle the hot fellas in it, with a little bit of drama on the side. And while it is occasionally exactly that, please believe me when I say there’s so much more to Magic Mike as well.

Mike (Channing Tatum) takes a young new starter at the construction site he works at under his wing. This new guy, Adam (Alex Pettyfer), has problems with authority though and quits on his first day, which isn’t so good for his exasperated sister (Cody Horn) whose couch he’s slumming it on. But Adam happens to meet Mike out one night in town, and seeing he’s down on his luck and desperate for cash, Mike shows him another side of his life that’s a guaranteed way to get money: male stripping. Every weekend he is ‘Magic Mike’, the star of a show filled with other muscled male strippers, including Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), and Tarzan (Kevin Nash), who all perform up close and personal for Florida’s hungry and cash-laden women. Seduced by this lifestyle Adam is trained up by the owner of the show, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), so he can perform and earn the big bucks as well. His sister ain’t gonna be happy…

Where the film becomes so much more than what the trailers portray it as, is in the story of Mike. He wants something more in life and is using the stripping to earn money to start his own business selling the custom-made furniture he designs. There’s more than one side to this hunky guy. The story also seems very real, especially once you learn the idea for the film came from Tatum himself who used to be a male stripper when he was just 19. He told his stories to director Steven Soderbergh who knew he just had to make a film out of it. This definitely lends the film a much more grounded and believable side, and it also gives two very true sides to the story. The first side is the fun, fast, easy money aspect that comes with getting any girl they want. But the other, more seedy side is the drug and alcohol fuelled world that for some of them goes hand-in-hand with what they do. And this two-sided tale makes Magic Mike so much more interesting and intelligent than just being a stripper movie for the ladies.

Channing Tatum has now convinced me he’s actually an amazing actor (as well as an amazing dancer) with his portrayal as ‘Magic Mike’. Maybe this is because the story came from him and he knows what he’s talking about. But he’s also convincing and very funny at times, as well as heartbreaking when he needs to be. Alex Pettyfer as the new boy Adam, does a great job transforming from shy, sensitive kid, to cocky (no pun intended), confident stripper. But one of the most impressive performances comes from Cody Horn as Adam’s sister, Brooke, who is the only women in the film with any redeemable qualities and who sees Adam’s new job for what it really is. Horn is convincing and has a relaxed and realistic way of acting, which also works well whenever her and Tatum are onscreen together.

The film itself also has a few laughs at times, not least when you see some of the extravagant and OTT performances that the fellas have to do (good choreography too). The guys all have their funny moments onscreen, but the one person who truly steals it is again Matthew McConaughey as Dallas in another intense (and slightly manic) performance. Magic Mike is beautifully shot as well, with gorgeous orangey hues throughout; the beautiful look we can now always expect to see in a Steven Soderbergh film. The only flaws with Magic Mike are that it seems slightly too long and begins to outstay its welcome towards the end, and also that the format of showing the months pass as Adam gets more involved with this new life seems a bit unnecessary. But these are small problems in a brilliant film.

So while I’m sure a lot of women will be satisfied with what they see, they’ll get a great, realistic, and occasionally funny story that shows the good and bad side of this entertainment venture as well. And for all those people saying it’s sexist towards men, the film just as badly portrays women who are more than happy to be used up by these hunky guys. In a world of objectification where the guys are viewed as objects every time they perform, they too see everything (like the flash cars they must have) and everyone (the pretty, young girls they always get) as objects too. I find it a shame that women can be subjected to female objectification in films all the time, but that one film with male objectification is met with disgust by quite a lot of men. We’ve had to deal with it for years, so get over it and give it a watch.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on August 3, 2012.

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