I’ve heard a lot of complaints about how terrible Magic Mike (2012) is. I didn’t think it was terrible at all—rather, it seems to be a victim of misleading advertising.
The beginning of the movie (much like the advertising) reads like a fan service ploy, and a twisted coming-of-age story. The title character (Channing Tatum) takes college drop-out Adam (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing after witnessing his job hunting woes, and ropes him into the world of male-stripping at Dallas’s (Matthew McConaughey) club. Though Adam is reluctant about stripping at first, he soon buys into the benefits of the job and becomes a force to be reckoned with.
It’s at this point that the story takes a more unusual direction. Instead of feeding more into the fan service and tying the story up in a neat little bow, Soderbergh explores the potentially dangerous consequences of the stripping business—drug pushing, exploitation, dead-ends. Since the script is based on Tatum’s real experiences, the story has an even more disturbing quality to it. You can tell that stage of his life wasn’t a happy place for him (or anyone else, for that matter).
I was also fascinated by the Florida backdrop and sets. While the landscape is beautiful, almost all of the houses and buildings in the movie are decorated in a creepy modern style. The characters are constantly surrounded by either reflective surfaces like glass, or the dark interior of Dallas’s lounge, and filled with generic furnishings. It’s as if the characters can never relax or personalize the spaces they occupy—they’re selling a lifestyle, rather than living it.
The cast is superb. Though Tatum’s performances are usually hit or miss for me, he obviously understood his character. He inspires genuine affection from the viewer, but also casts a critical eye over Mike. It becomes clear that he’s is meant for a better career, and is in danger of settling on a path that could destroy him. Cody Horn, who played Brooke (his love interest), was actually interesting, likable, and vital to Mike’s realization that he isn’t living his dream. Probably the best performance, however, was by McConaughey. Dallas is definitely a character who has to be embraced completely, which he did with enthusiasm. McConaughey utilizes his talent for sleaze, while showing Dallas’s utter self-love. His performance is so believable it’s repulsive.
Magic Mike is a window into a way of life that not many people discuss or even know much about. It presents the reality of the situation, and yet gives you a shred of hope as well, making it a very recommendable movie.