Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Movie Review: Magic Mike

On the surface 'Magic Mike' seems like the type of film that only women and gay men would enjoy, being that it is about male strippers and the trailer alone features an abundance of stripping scenes. But having Steven Soderbergh's name as director made me want to see it nevertheless, you see Soderbergh doesn't choose projects that are one-note cash-ins, his films are unique, engrossing and have rich stories and characters. 'Magic Mike' is exactly this. This movie won't be remembered by me at least as "the movie about male strippers" but rather as "one of the best films I've seen this year".

Taking place over 3 months the story follows the eponymous Mike, an entrepreneur of sorts who spends his days working for a roofing company and his nights as the headliner of a male strip club. One day whilst on a roofing job Mike befriends a down on his luck young man named Adam and eventually introduces him to the world of male stripping. As Mike tries to pull himself out of the stripping world Adam falls in deeper and experiences the darker aspects of the profession.

'Magic Mike' has a well written script from writer Reid Carolin, the story is dynamically edited to fit the high-energy strip scenes with the comparatively silent exposition scenes. It's not an overly intelligent script but it has a lot of heart and provides plenty of comedic moments throughout the story, which most befits the genre title of 'Dramedy'. Most importantly however is it doesn't overstay its welcome, as soon as 'Magic Mike' begins to run out of story momentum it wraps up leaving a concise and enjoyable film with a mercifully unprolonged ending.

The cast do a great job in this film, Tatum proves again that he can play roles requiring depth with ease whilst also showing his impressive comedic chops, as long as he stays away from the typical roles Hollywood would have him play (such as in 'Dear John' or 'The Vow') Tatum could well become a great actor. Alex Pettyfer is passable in the role of Adam, one of the principal characters in the film, Pettyfer possess no great talent and was probably cast based on looks though I felt a better actor could have done so much more with this role. Shockingly to me, the standout actor in the film is Matthew McConaughy, a man I've never been impressed by in any of his acting roles. McConaughy undoubtedly delivers the performance of his career playing the ambitious strip club manager Dallas, a man whose business and its advancement means everything to him along with pleasing his customers. For McConaughy this must have been the dream role, a character who was without a shirt for every scene of the film, otherwise though McConaughy's work as Dallas is complete scene stealing material and his performance deserves to herald an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in next years ceremony. The remaining members of the cast are very talented people but unfortunately are underused in their badly scripted roles.

Matthew McConaughy steals the show.

Steven Soderbergh's directing made this film for me. His unique stamp of originality was evident in every scene and his very stylish direction defined the tone of the film. As I said before Soderbergh won't direct just any film, there needs to be something he sees within the idea and can develop to produce a great story, the script of 'Magic Mike' alone would not have made it the film it is nor even with the addition of its talented cast, Steven Soderbergh was critical to the feel and scope this film possess. Visually the film is beautifully directed using cleverly framed shots and vibrant use of colour amongst stunning vista views and terrific panning shots, the editing compliments the photography excellently and delivers some very impressive shots throughout the film.

Unfortunately however, this film is far from perfect. From the scripting side of things there are plenty of clich├ęs and some all too familiar movie scenarios, not too mention some characters that feign importance to the story. Talented actors playing what could be interesting characters are criminally underused and therefore relegated to background roles thanks to a lack of development in their characters in the script, actors like Joe Manganiello (known best as Alcide from 'True Blood') and Matt Bomer (best known from the television shows 'White Collar' and 'Chuck') are given little to do when their characters aren't on stage. Another problem with the film is its lead actress Cody Horn who plays the role of Adam's sister Brooke, both Horn and Brooke are bland and uninteresting, the character provides essentially nothing to the story other than being "the sensible one" and the love interest for the main character. The characterisation flaws can be traced back to the script and its poor handling of scenes involving Brooke, rather than having the character deal with situations in a realistic way and evolving her personality from there, the script instead changes the characters personality for what seems like every scene. The choice of Cody Horn as lead actress is a very noticeable misstep, aside from her looks she's almost completely uninteresting onscreen whatever semblance of chemistry she shared with Tatum is no doubt down to his work rather than her own, in fact each scene she appears in serves no other purpose than to demonstrate Tatum's talent further.

"Magic Mike" and "The Kid".

I'm always a fan of music being used well in movies and this film does this excellently. During the scenes involving the strips the music is rightfully high-tempo and modern whilst during some of the more dramatic parts of the film a more low-key harmonious score is used. A highlight of the film is a scene depicting a wild night filled with drugs, alcohol and sex that is shot and edited brilliantly to combine with the soundtrack's steady background rhythm, when this is executed as well as it is here the scene requires no dialogue at all to tell the story, the audience can feel the emotion of the scene through the powerful imagery and seductive ambiance.

I went into this movie unsure of what I'd find, my belief in the director was waning due to the reports from women of their love for the film purely because of the male eye candy. I was coming out of the cinema thinking over the film and how much I enjoyed it when I realised something, these women had come to see one thing only, they did not give the story a single chance to succeed on its on merits and preferred to experience the movie from ogle to ogle. Indeed two women walking in front of me were expressing the very same opinions I'd heard from others, no mention of the story, no "what did you think?", only discussion of the stripping scenes. These women are not appreciating the movie for what it is, an entertaining story full of humour and great characters, not simply male strippers. The reputation this film has amassed has been because of women like these, and because of this less people, certainly less males, are inclined to see the film which is a real shame, because for me 'Magic Mike' was a very enjoyable flick with fine acting and terrific direction.


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