Magic Mike Review – It’s Not About Male Strippers!
July 31, 2012 in Rant
Caution, may be spoilers.
I saw three movies at the cinema today. One of them was about a guy, Mike, who had a passion for crafting furniture. In order to save money to put an advance on a loan at the bank that he needed to kick-start his own business making his hand-crafted furniture, which was all he really wanted to do in life, he worked several jobs. While doing this, he met a nineteen year old boy who was stuck in a rut, living with his sister, trying to find something to do to earn a living. Mike saw an opportunity to help the kid out and introduced him to one of his other jobs, taking him under his wing. He met the kid’s older sister – a scorning, constantly disapproving woman who worked to eck a living and had little room left in her life for fun, and assured her that he’d look after her little brother. Unfortunately for Mike, her little brother made some bad choices at this new job that lead to drug dealing, overdosing, fights – and Mike felt it his responsibility to bail him out, despite it literally costing Mike his future.
The cinematography was artful. Poignant lingering shots of faces, expressions, emotions. Sepia hues over idyllic secluded sandbanks, moody shadows in lonely houses – camerawork that focused on the people, on their lives and their stories. Long conversations with no scoring, no music, to carry the scene – just normal people with normal emotions, dealing with the high cost of living. The acting wasn’t Hollywood-fare over-recited and fine-tuned polished, glossy lines. It was almost documentary in feel with heartfelt ad-libbed monologues and raw Woody-Allen-esque deliveries. I mean, the film’s directed by Steve Soderbergh – Erin Brokovich, Traffic, Ocean’s 11, Solaris, Ocean’s 13, The Informant! – point being, he’s not a chick-flick guy. He’s a serious director.
The only bad thing about this movie was the trailer. The trailer showed flashy lights, loud music, screaming girls, sweaty muscles. Strip-tease dances at house parties, chilling out at the beach, play-fighting with a new romance. It completely misrepresented the movie. Magic Mike is not a film about male strippers. It’s a film about a guy doing what he needs to in order to do what he wants to. He’s lonely, he’s frustrated, and he gets treated like a doormat by the kid he’s helping out. There was no happy Hollywood ending – which again is, to me, very Woody Allen – we’re introduced to characters who are real and believable, who say things you’d expect in normal every-day conversation, who go through unusual circumstances and deal with them in their own individual ways. There’s no real, complete closure at the end – some characters make choices and we’re left to assume they go through with those choices and that’s how they end up living their lives.
Anyone who went to see this film looking forward to a Chippendale-like chick flick will naturally be disappointed. Anyone who went to see it out of curiosity and was willing to experience something different will, hopefully, be pleased. Unfortunately this is not a good situation for the latter group, in which I find myself. As I encountered on twitter today, being a woman going to see what has been publicly declared a ‘male stripper movie’ and deciding that it’s ‘less chick-flick and more life-drama’ gets me replies like this*:
life drama involving semi nude giggling men? Imagine the following…magic “Mindy”, your fella watching it…same excuse
“My fella” ‘s response to that: “Firstly, he seems to be confused at what a mature relationship actually involves. Which leads me to Secondly; even if it was ‘that kind of movie’ – who cares? I don’t care.”
If there was a ‘Magic Mindy’ movie that was about female strippers and Jaco wanted to go see it, I’d go see it with him. I’m not a prude. But that’s besides the point. It’s sad that I apparently can’t be pleasantly surprised by a movie that got billed as one thing and tried its damnedest to be something else – something more – and get called on ‘making up excuses’.
Magic Mike’s not a wonderful, fantastic, awesome piece of art-house film to be held up high alongside such masterpieces of human exploration as The Fountain or Slum Dog Millionaire. But it’s a GOOD movie. And it’s not about male strippers.
* After writing this I checked out the guy’s twitter feed and saw an exchange between him and a friend that made it clear that he really didn’t know how he’d written anything offensive. So in an effort to clarify, I tried explaining. It touches on misogyny and gender stereotypes - http://pastebin.com/m5HpQ5Sw