Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello
Watch Magic Mike online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV Store / Google Play
With Magic Mike on its way to Broadway, we take a look at Steven Soderbergh’s stripping sensation from the perspective of both our female and male writers.
Ivan – Man
Has there ever been a better example of gender-based marketing than Magic Mike?
“HELLO GIRLS” the adverts for the film screamed on the sides of buses, with scantily clad men promising to Channing all over their Tatum. The film itself? Far from a film about stripping, Steven Soderbergh’s movie was a heartfelt character study… of men who just happened to be strippers.
Cinema audiences responded appropriately. Theatres were filled with women ready to see Alex Pettyfer get naked and admire Joe Manganiello Jr. My initial viewing was in a room far quieter than expected – perhaps because Soderbergh shows everything; he exposes Alvin as well as the Chipmunks.
Drugs, power struggles and the perils of growing old in an image-driven industry all weigh upon Channing and his chums, in what turns out to be a dark and candid drama. It ticks a lot of the cliche boxes, particularly Pettyfer’s innocent newcomer, Adam, losing his way in Florida’s underbelly, but that familiar formula provides a welcome contrast to the graphic subject matter; there’s no difference, Soderbergh shows us, between male stripping and any other career that might be depicted on the big screen.
The real revelation (aside from Matthew McConaughey’s continued run of top roles) is Channing himself. Based on his own experiences, the actor brings laughs and pathos to the lead role. Physically, he’s incredible, throwing himself across the stage with athletic commitment and a huge bucket of sex appeal. All that, plus depth, wit and charm? Make no mistake: he’s got a lot of junk in his trunk. A burgeoning romance with Adam’s sister, Brooke (a skeptical Cody Horn) gives the tale a sweet hook that betrays the sensitive, soft heart underneath its sequinned, sweaty skin.
“I am not my lifestyle! I’m not my job!” he yells at her at one point. It’s a shame, then, that Mike’s story was sold to audiences using exactly that – after all, it’s not as if Matthew McConaughey getting topless is a one-off event in cinematic history. The same will probably happen again when the Magic Mike musical (announced this week) arrives on Broadway.
Now it’s on Netflix, though, maybe that can change. The poster is still the same, a tantalising tease to entice salacious streamers, but away from the buses and gender stereotypes, the privacy of video on-demand will hopefully see those other than the target demographic give the film a click. They’ll be rewarded with one of the most surprising (and sexy) movies in recent years.
Magic Mike is a fantastic, feel-good and foxy film. It’s fun for everyone – not just the women.
Jo – Woman
Women have been stripping down to varying degrees for Hollywood movies for a while, so when it seemed like men might finally be getting in on the action I was excited to see what the end product might be.
Marketed on the side of every double decker bus in London (to give full visuals to star Channing Tatum’s fabulous abs), it was glitzy, glittery and everything you might expect from a film marketed at women about male strippers – young hot rods such as Alex Pettyfer and True Blood’s delectable Joe Manganiello, as well as Matthew McConaughey proving that, despite his career renaissance, he still had his Fool’s Gold bod. The trailer promised an upbeat entertaining thrill ride that would lose its pants a few times.
The film itself? False advertising. This is a sensitive tale of strippers with a heart that for all its raunchiness is like a sepia-tinted male equivalent of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (The Brotherhood of the Velco-Seamed Pants, if you will), with male bonding mixed with Mike (Tatum – real-life former stripper with a big heart) trying to make it as an entrepreneur while pursuing the girl of his dreams – you can tell she’s the girl of his dreams because she’s the only one not in the strip joint.
And that’s the thing I found most strange about Magic Mike. After all the advertising pushing the film as a shiny, soulless chest-fest, it then proceeded to make the people who had entered the theatres or opened up Netflix based on that very advertising feel like sleazes. Nameless armies of screaming women are dispatched quickly by Dallas (McConaughey) and his gang of likely lads – and their, ahem, likely lads – but not before a moment of lazy physical comedy with a larger female client. From there, the sleazy patrons who came to watch the film for the pecs alone are treated to a darker dive into the social circles in which these boys swing – a frustratingly cliched drug subplot crushing what might otherwise have been too upbeat a success story. But through all the red herrings, leather chaps, achingly predictable romantic dilemmas and morals that drop as quickly as Channing’s undergarments, rare gems of intelligent observation do their best to buoy the film.
It looks to be all mouth and no trousers, but in reality Magic Mike is an intelligent portrait of male insecurities and pressures – and possibly the first time I’ve seen a detailed look at the concerns of men ageing in the entertainment business. There are inevitable cliches, the runtime was a tad excessive and I wouldn’t return to Dallas’ joint, but it’s a solid piece of film-making: smart, sensitive and well-paced. Rather like the perfect lap dance – but that’s for a different review entirely…
Magic Mike is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
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