With a standard backstage melodrama at its center, “Magic Mike” grips our attention to what happens onstage and backstage with its earnest and insightful approach to its hot subject – male striptease. The movie will definitely draw the interest of female audiences because of that and there are plenty of scenes to fulfill their expectation, but the movie is also interesting to male audiences like me. I looked at how they work with a certain level of curiosity, and my conclusion is that male striptease is not that different from female striptease; even lots of money can be earned, both jobs are not so good for self-esteem, considering that you let your body serve for the customers’ desire even though no sex is allowed.
Its hero, Magic Mike(Channing Tatum) works as a star stripper at some small male striptease club at Tampa, Florida. Because he does not want to be stuck in his current main occupation, he also works at a construction site to earn more money to realize his dream, and that is how he encounters Adam(Alex Pettyfer) on one day. Adam is a pretty lousy partner without much experience at the construction site(he is employed just because he is a cheap worker), but soon he finds a better job. In the same evening, he comes across Mike at some nightclub, and he helps Mike drawing potential customers to Mike’s club, and then he gets hired at the club.
At first, Adam is hired as a mere assistant to Mike and other male strippers, but he gets a chance to appear on the stage on the same night when someone has to appear as a replacement. Of course, he is pretty awkward and clumsy on the stage in front of lots of cheering female audiences while he tries to take off his clothes, but, as Mike instinctively guesses, his shy awkwardness works well on the stage, and the club’s impresario/manager Dallas(Matthew McConaughey) sees the potential inside Adam.
With Adam as a new member, we have many performances on the stage with various styles and themes, and it is sort of amusing to see their varieties including soldiers, firemen, trench coat, Ken doll, and Tarzan. The choreography and music are as excellent as they can be in this small place, and the director Steven Soderbergh’s stable camerawork captures his actors’ physical performances well while calmly observing their heated atmosphere at the club. Channing Tatum, who was actually a stripper for a short time before his acting career, and his co-actors on the stage look natural with their nice-looking bodies while convincingly inhabiting in their respective characters.
The movie has nice details on these characters and the other people behind the stage. I especially liked the moment when one of them gets a problem in his back on the stage; he manages to go behind the stage as tactfully as possible while not ruining the show in front of his audiences. And I found that the female audiences in the movie are a lot more cheerful than the male counterparts in other films. Sure, as customers, they surely demand nice bodies to look and the sexual illusions associated with them, but they are not rude at least.
Everything on the stage goes pretty smoothly under the direction of Dallas, and Matthew McConaughey, who is going through the second peak of his career at present, gives a wonderful performance as a cool business man who exactly knows what his customers want and how to handle it for their excitement. McConaughey is simply electrifying with the sleazy but charismatic charm, and that shows from the opening scene when he explains the rules to his wild customers. He restricts them while also tantalizing them, and McConaughey’s gestures and words are at the right spot well-balanced between them.
Meanwhile, we also see Mike trying to start his own business through his saved money. He wants to open a customized furniture shop(he is good at making them out of scraps), but it is hard to get a loan due to bad economy, and he finds himself still stuck in his job while he is not that young anymore. I noticed that one big guy in the club looked relatively old compared to others, and I found later that Kevin Nash, who plays him in the movie, is over 50. Of course, Nash’s physique is far better than me(I am an overweight guy approaching 30, by the way), but I wonder how long his character will go on while getting old. I noticed several times that he moves rather clumsily compared to his fellow strippers on the stage.
While gradually getting intimated with Adam’s kind sister Brooke(Cory Horn), Mike feels more need to leave his occupation, but it is not that easy. He argues at one point that his stripper job does not define him, but, as we know, our identity is usually defined by what we are doing, and Mike is more or less than a prisoner of his occupation and money.
While Mike experiences disillusion as an experienced employee, Adam falls through the problems associated with their show business as a young rookie. He drinks, and then he gets addicted to drugs while getting involved with drug dealing. Mike tries to take care of Adam’s problems as he promised to Brooke, but Adam eventually hits the bottom at one night, although it will probably not be the bottom to him in the future if he is not more careful.
Based on the screenplay by Reid Crolin, who also produced the film, Soderbergh made an enjoyable backstage melodrama which looks at the bright and dark sides of its subject in a clear view. There are more things to be enjoyed other than male striptease, and I appreciated the way Soderbergh makes us get interested in what’s going on in the background while focusing the conversation in front of the camera. By the way, as many people pointed out, one curious thing about the movie is its absence of gay characters in the story. I think gay people are also interested in looking at male body parts, but I guess they have their own favorite club somewhere outside the movie.
How often we are the prisoners of our occupation!
SC: And how often we are doing what we don’t like much!