Thursday, July 12, 2012

Magic Mike

I believe Magic Mike may be one of the best movies of the year.
We first meet Mike at not one, but several of his part-time jobs, trying to make it professionally. But the thirties-ish guy wants to actually do specialty furniture -- you know, table tops held up by missiles. While we're not sure there's a market for that kind of thing, there sure is a market for his night gig: stripping.
They used to call this by another term, like "male dancers," or fill-in-the-blank "revue." It's really male stripping, let's not kid ourselves. In the better shows, there is dancing, but it's not why the women come to watch. They come to watch the men strip to display muscle-bound, shaven bodies.
I went to a Chippendale's revue once when it was hugely popular, in the mid-'80's, and it was obvious to me that the ones to watch were the women. I went with a group of women from work, and I found out that I didn't know any of them. While they didn't exactly turn into frothing animals, the distinction would be minor. They were changed, they let go, on this one night. It's a fascinating thing to watch, men and women, doing a public, almost-naked dance together.
Plus, isn't this part of the American dream? Work really hard and get a lot of money, fame (in certain circles), and all the sex you want? For certain men, it is, but for Mike, it's not the kind of success he really seems to crave. A scene where he puts on a suit and glasses, and approaches a loan officer really shows us where his heart is. However, he's been working for cash under the table at all jobs for so long that he has no credit history, so he's not worth taking a chance on. We know differently, however. We somehow know that Mike is special, that he works hard at whatever he does, and that he's a born businessman.
This could be the sleaziest thing you've ever seen, male-exploitation to the sky, but director Steven Soderbergh knows that his story lies in between sleaze and real life, and the maturation of "Magic" Mike. The screenplay, written by star Channing Tatum's business partner, Reid Carolin, is smart and sexy, and is loosely based on Tatum's life as a stripper in Florida when he was a teenager. The script shows us a 19-year-old mess of a young man, Adam, who is introduced to this world and takes to it very quickly. The difference between the immature, grab-all-you-can Adam and Mike really sets the tale up, and allows Mike to see his future.
The dancing scenes are quite good, especially when Mike gets out there, but not quite professional, which is the way it should be for something rehearsed two or three times, at most. And most times, the dancing denigrates into pseudo-sex, bumping and grinding. P
Perhaps the piece-de-resistance, or the saddest thing you've ever seen, is over-the-hill strip-club owner Dallas (a remarkable Matthew McConaughey) vamping it up one last time.
This is a star-producing movie for Channing Tatum. But a great film to be watched by all of us who can prove we're over 18.
Thumb's up.


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