Saturday, July 7, 2012

Magic Mike: A Review

I don't usually review films here.  Probably because I went to film school, I worked in the movie business, and my soul died there...so I'm less apt to enjoy writing about film than theater.  But I'm making a special exception for a special film.

I saw Magic Mike last night and I happened to see Haywire on my flight back from Europe last week.  The recent works of Steven Soderbergh have therefore been on my mind.  Both films reminded me what a great cinematographer, editor and director he is.  This is highlighted so strongly in these particular films because they both have execrable scripts.  Despite this obvious and usually fatal problem, he makes the films visually interesting and at times dynamic to watch.  He might have no interest in his actors or emotion but he still makes the experience engaging.  Who does that?  It's like he's taken on some sort of challenge to prove to his mother he can direct anything--Mom see this pile of dog turd over here, I'm gonna direct the shit out of it and make it look like gold. 

Magic Mike made almost the entire cast look like they had never acted a day in their life.  I mean it's not Laurence Olivier up there to begin with but he really made them look bad (And this comes from someone who watched two Channing Tatum movies on my recent flight).  I don't know if Soderbergh failed to talk to them at all or he just was not willing to edit together passable performances (which I can tell you is how many a lousy actor get by year after year with a career) but nothing made you believe these were real characters.  And it did not seem like the actors believed the lines they were speaking.  On one level, this was kind of awesome and liberating.  It was like watching the best student film ever shot...cast with just some random guys the director found on the street--like mumblecore if the directors actually knew how to shoot a movie.  There is something strangely authentic about that.  That Soderbergh made these "Actors" seem like they could not act.  Like maybe they were just some down on their luck Tampa strippers hoping for the big-time (Miami) to call them up. 

It's so sexy when you take your top off.
Except...it would have been nice for a modicum of emotional engagement.  Rather than really commit to any emotional arc, Soderbergh kept moving his camera and shooting more Dutch angles than in an Amsterdam corn maze (yeah...I don't know...a lot of Dutch angles).  It felt as if the actors were acting in one place and Soderbergh was like, "Can I shoot their bellybuttons 'cause I'm less interested in what's happening in their facial regions but this light off their abs is cool...."

Ok...there was one scene and one moment where I was emotionally engaged.  Mike makes a personal sacrifice for his little protégé and I'm a sucker for men throwing themselves on their sword (I had to guys...it's a stripper movie). 

There's something to be said for making a Hollywood movie about male strippers that's shot like an art film.  The audience was certainly primed for a cheesy/romantic movie with some hot guys stripping.  They got hot guys stripping but there was something to way Soderbergh shot those scenes that made you think he was trying really hard to un-eroticize the activity and make the strippers look ridiculous.  He was not staging well choreographed Broadway numbers but Tampa level stripping.  And I could not help but cringe a little throughout those numbers at the effort the strippers were putting into their numbers and the hilarity of the "sexiness."  Don't get me wrong if Channing Tatum wants to dry-hump me on a stage in a pink thong I mean I probably would go up there...but would I?  You know I'd be the awkward girl he throws his back out trying to do a sexy lift with. 

Matthew McConaughey was channeling a sort of Tom Cruise in Magnolia meets pond scum.  And I mean that as a compliment.  I would under normal circumstances like to revoke McConaughey's SAG card.  Here, he created a truly despicable character who acted as gross as I think McConaughey looks.  Bravo sir.  Bravo.  And he does strip down to cock sock--is that the technical term for it?

The part of this movie that plays into female fantasy is where Channing Tatum is desperately trying to make his fuck-buddy his girlfriend.  We all believe that we would be the one who would be willing to listen to Mike talk about his feelings.  And even better if he takes his shirt off. 

I really think Magic Mike is worth checking out.  Watch how fluid the camera is.  Watch the interesting shot choices.  Watch the energy that comes from the editing.  And also enjoy the stripping between giggle-fits.  For all my snark, I found it cinematically engaging.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know what it was about this movie, but I just had a freakin' ball with it. I laughed, hooted, hollered, and loved watching what Soderbergh could do with a "male stripper movie". Definitely wasn't a film that had no chance of working but pulled it off very well. Good review.

    ReplyDelete