Friday afternoon, my mother and I went to see Magic Mike. I knew we were in for an unusual viewing experience when she embraced another “woman of a certain age” in line, and they both giggled at the film they were queued up to see. My second clue was that all evening showings of the film were already sold out.
The 5:10 screening we saw was packed with frisky females who had less than zero interest in the preview trailers advertising upcoming horror flicks. Who programs those trailers anyway? Lost opportunity promoting those films with this crowd.
Maybe that’s the point. Could there have been nothing else to show before the feature? There aren’t a lot of films targeting women, and certainly not a lot of them by top directors like Steven Soderbergh. I went to the film mainly because of the director, and I found both more and less than I expected.
The audience reaction was fun, and I could almost feel Soderbergh chuckle at the shot near the beginning of the film of Channing Tatum’s bare assets (I always want to call him Tatum Channing for some reason) that elicited the desired response from many viewers.
It’s not Tatum’s body or even dance moves that I find most appealing, however. It’s the openness of his face and a certain look that rests in his eyes when he is in repose. He is perfect for the duality this role requires – after all, he is a man in transition even before he knows it – and it is interesting to watch the subtlety with which Tatum delivers this performance.
Tatum and Soderbergh orchestrate the transition exquisitely.
Stripper Mike is cast as a roofing-car detailing-stripping entrepreneur (though we could have seen more of the clothed activities to build the case that he is a businessman) who really wants to be an artist-craftsman building distinctive furniture that incorporates found objects. He lives the lifestyle of excess that goes along with his means (mostly the stripping) to get to his desired end (the American Dream), but we always know he is a good guy (because of that look in his eye and other clues provided by Soderbergh and screenwriter Reid Carolin).
In typical Hollywood form, what he needs to become the better man is a crisis situation and the love of a good woman. It is the latter that elevates the film for me.
I want less of men stripping (especially Matthew McConaughey – sorry ladies) so that it is easier for me to focus on the scenes from the film I return to inside my head, which is mainly three of them: the scene at the sandbar party, the scene by the pool when Mike is looking for Brooke’s brother, and the final scene of the film. I’ll give you a spoiler alert later, if you like, but it’s not like you don’t know what is coming in this movie!
First, a note about style. All of the lighting in the domestic interiors, especially in Brooke’s (Cody Horn) apartment is low, soft, and very un-Hollywood (unstylized in a conscious way). The camera in some of the scenes with Brooke and Mike is also a little less subjective in its placement, which automatically sets these scenes apart.
The other thing is Tatum’s performance in these scenes. He maintains a certain distance from Brooke that is endearing. In his attempt to be casual with her, yet careful, it is clear just how different his interactions with her are from his other social exchanges.
When I think of this film, that’s what I think about.
SPOILER ALERT (don’t read any more from this point if you don’t want to know how the movie ends).
I could watch this movie again, and sort of want to, just to review those scenes and, most of all, the final scene of the film. To see Brooke and Mike sitting across the table from one another is a simple, perfectly paced scene that evokes so much more than it shows.
The most powerful moments of the film are subtly rendered in stark contrast to all that has come before – especially the strip club sequences – and near the very end of the film, when the camera has pulled back to make us conscious voyeurs of something truly beautiful, a connection that is revealed by one hand touching another and a head lowered in gratitude for a more holistic desire than expressed anywhere else in the film.
Great movie? No. But, there are some great scenes.
When we left the screening, the lobby was filled with restive women and a sprinkling of bemused men. Outside the cinema, several teenage girls were taking pictures of the Magic Mike poster with their phones.
I suspect that what I find magical (or at least indelible) about the film may be different from what they remember most from the move. Or, maybe not.