My wife and I saw it because Stephen Soderbergh --- the first filmmaker in 60 years to have two films (“Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich”) nominated for Best Picture in a single year --- directed it. We had modest expectations. We left totally surprised and entertained.
We're not alone in loving “Magic Mike.” It cost $7 million, has grossed $150 million, and Soderbergh and Tatum are working on a sequel. [To buy the DVD from Amazon, click here. To rent or buy the streaming video from Amazon for instant gratification, click here.]
Funny, isn’t it: the history of art until the mid-19th century is all about the male gaze. The woman in the picture is an object. As a general rule, we see her, but she doesn’t see us. She’s looking to the side or, demurely, down. Which is an exact expression of the gender relationship: the all-powerful male, the submissive woman.
At clubs like Chippendale’s, that relationship is flipped --- it’s all about the female gaze. The club is filled with women, mostly married, on a “night out.” The performers are hunky young men with shaved and oiled chests. And there are, as the Chippendale’s web site says, “multiple opportunities for intimate audience participation.”
In “Magic Mike,” we go behind the scenes of those lives. Mike Lane, 30, works under the Florida sun as a roofer. At night, he’s the star of the Kings of Tampa, who dance at Matthew McConaughey’s Club Xquisite. And on the side, he designs furniture and sees that as his future.
The plot is 1930s Hollywood. Mike befriends a kid, gets him a job as a dancer, and promises the kid’s sister he’ll look after him. The kid gets in trouble. The sister gets pissed. And then… “
"Magic Mike” is, by genre, a dramatic comedy. With constant movement. And a correctly naughty attitude toward sex. The trailer:
The movie has a R-rating. It needs it; a film about dirty dancing that’s family-friendly would surely suck. It’s not surprising how hot the dancing is --- Channing Tatum, at 19, worked in clubs in Florida. Check this out:
You can, if you like, sneer at this character and his dreams. You can mock his world. A male stripper? Easy to dismiss him: “Well, that’s who he is.”
What makes this movie work is everything that lies beneath the surface. Mike is a guy who started with nothing. He works hard. He has a dream. The dream requires money. It’s how the world is: We buy our freedom.
If you will take the smallest imaginative leap, you’ll twig that Mike is very much like you. Which means you can identify with him. And, if he makes it out, cheer for him.