For a short while there, it looked like I was going to be the only male in a fairly packed theater for the screen of Magic Mike that I attended. Magic Mike is Soderbergh’s inversion of the story we all know from films in which The Plucky Female Stripper (Or Dancer or Waitress) With A Heart Of Gold Finally Makes It, and I imagine the inverse of my situation was true for women who wanted to attend a screening of (God help them) Showgirls in the 90s. (For the record, some dudes showed up about 3 minutes before the film started, which is a shame; I probably could have made a few bucks from those 60-somethings in the very back.)
Magic Mike is about male stripping the way that Altman’s M*A*S*H is about a surgical unit. It’s a framework in which Soderbergh explores power and money and what some men do with it and what others want to do with it. Don’t get me wrong: the dancing sequences take up a healthy portion of the film’s running time, as well they should, but they’re very much secondary to the story, which is fine. You get the impression that stripping is very much secondary to the characters’ real life, a means to an end.
Speaking of working towards that end, there’s a scene where Mike is talking to a loan officer in a bank that is just blunt and cold and it’s so much of what I like Soderbergh for. If you were to ask me to pick one scene from the man’s filmography that showed “his” style, that moment would be a close second to the “conspiring to conspire” scene in Traffic.
One of those things that gets a bit lost in Soderbergh’s auteur “makes-the-movies-he-wants-fuck-the-system” reputation is the fact that it’s obvious how much he likes certain actors and wants to push them in the right direction. Channing Tatum has an easy charm, of course, but this is the first time I’ve seen him in a film where the director was confident enough in his abilities to just let a camera rest on him. I was in no way surprised to find out that he’ll be in Soderbergh’s upcoming drama The Side Effects starring Rooney Mara and Jude Law.
I’m about 80% sure that Matthew McConaughey was just told to be himself and they’d make the rest work around him.
Cody Horn is going to go places. Olivia Munn can’t act, really, but she’s very good at exactly what she’s doing here, and I can definitely see why someone would want to take many, many pictures of her.
The daylight scenes (and indeed any shots that don’t take place in the club) are shot in a slightly-sepia, low-contrast mode while the evening scenes are lurid as hell. I’m not always a fan of Soderbergh’s heavy-handed cinematographic storytelling — it’s the only big flaw in Haywire for me — but it works perfectly here.
Basically, what I’m saying is that you should go see Magic Mike. It’s a much better film than the trailer intimates. The fact that the movie uses the 1970s Warner Brothers studio intro at the very beginning tells anyone who appreciated how bravura movie companies were at the time that they’re definitely going to see something that straddles the line between commercial and “art” perfectly.