Posted July 8, 2012 by D. K. Holm
Buttocks flex, abs pack ’em in, and pecs vibrate like railroad crossing lights, all in the interest of exposing the cruel inexorable demands of capitalism. That’s Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike in a nutshell (or nutsack). Soderbergh has a few themes that recur in his films. One is the return of a figure to a home town where he disrupts the peace he left once before in his wake. Recently he has also been exploring the consequences of capitalism (Bubble, Che), sometimes within the world of sex and money, in films such as The Girlfriend Experience, Full Frontal, and now Magic Mike, based on a script credited to Reid Carolin, an associate of star Channing Tatum, and apparently based on one phase of the actor-dancer’s life. MM takes place over the course of about three months in Florida, as amateur entrepreneur Mike introduces the “Kid” (Alex Pettyfer), a stray he has picked up, to the world of male strippers, kinda like the wayRock of Ages begins, in which another naif is taken under the week of slightly more seasoned pro who talks his own boss (in this case Matthew McConaughey) into hiring the newcomer. MMtakes a different direction, however, as the Kid ends up succumbing to the excesses of the “lifestyle” in a way that the career-focused Mike never allows himself. It’s a modernFlashdance, both about an aspiring artist using sex work as a way stop to some higher form of art (ballet there, furniture making here) and alternating blue collar day jobs with lush public spectacles, but with butts for boobs. Along the way, Mike meets and falls for the Kid’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn), and finally decides to exit his rut. Soderbergh is juggling several balls at once here. He’s telling Tatum’s story, he is offering up eye candy to the audience in the form of numerous hunks, he is exploring a variation on his economic theme, and he is finding new and interesting ways to frame his story, usually in an effort to put the viewer in the consciousness of his characters. There are numerous arresting but not distracting POV shots in the film, and it is superbly edited by Mary Ann Bernard, one of Soderbergh’s many aliases. Surprisingly, Magic Mike is one of the best films of the year, and isn’t bad to look at, either.